Before and After

ISBN: 0312424418
ISBN 13: 9780312424411
By: Rosellen Brown

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About this book

The New York Times Bestseller A New York Times Notable Book Carolyn and Ben Reiser moved to Hyland, New Hampshire with their two children for the comforts of rural life. But when the local police chief comes looking for their seventeen-year-old son Jacob to question him about the brutal murder of his girlfriend, the Reisers' lives begin to unravel. A compelling story that will capture you in the opening scene and hold you through its shocking conclusion, Before and After is a stunning novel that pits parent against parent, brother against sister, family against community, blood loyalty against law-as deep questions of loyalty, honesty, and love are forced to the surface in this psychologically riveting tale. (Library Journal)

Reader's Thoughts


I have signed up to take a seminar about childhood from this author in the fall. She does a convincing job, especially with the two teenagers in this book, of getting into the psyches of her characters. The plot of the book required as much: It traces the strain on a family after one of them becomes involved in an accidental murder.


** spoiler alert ** I was so frustrated and irritated with the father that I wished I could reach into the book pages and thrash him. This was a good portrayal of a family in crisis.


** spoiler alert ** New Hampshire family dealing with the unimaginable, very analytical, written from 3 characters pov (mother, father and sister) of brother who kills girlfriend


So far, I'm having a really hard time getting into this book. It seems to drag on and on with no interesting point. Hopefully it gets better...Ok, I'm done with the book and sad to say, it didn't get better. I started skimming pages towards the end just to finish it and see what happened...which turned out to be nothing great. Sorry, but this is one book on putting on my "do not read again" list.

Lori Anaple

I loved the point of view of this novel, but found the internal dialogue too much. I get that we need to have a good representation of the motivations from the characters, but there is such a thing as information overload. In fact, toward the end I was just fed up. Overall, it is a worthy read. The character of the father really ticked me off though. I think he is just a plain flat out jerk. And some of the information that comes out is really quite irrelevant in the scheme of the plot.


I'll admit it. I'm a bit of a book snob. I don't generally pick up books just because they've been on the New York Times Bestseller list; I don't normally go for the books that have that smooth cover art that reminds me of Dan Brown's empire of "history"-thrillers or any given murder mystery. It's not that I don't think those books will be enjoyable, I'm sure they are. It's just that when I look for books to read, I'm looking at writing style. I'm looking for authors that have something new to teach me, whether it be a new perspective, a new way of approaching a plot twist, or just a fresh voice.So when my wonderfully literary friend Kelly sent me this book, I glanced at it and then put in on my shelf for a few months. But I eventually gave it a try. And I'm quite glad I did. Roselle Brown approaches a familiar story-- murder-- from an unfamiliar perspective. She sheds light on the struggles that befall an ordinary family when their son is suddenly implicated in a brutal killing of a young girl. In their small, rural community, the event takes on a life of its own and drives this family into hiding. With their voices, by showing the father, mother, sister and the way this one horrific night changed everything about their lives, their relationships with each other, their views of childhood and community and joy and guilt and fairness. The story is cautious and subtle, it attacks issues of class, race, religion, the stigma of being outsiders, the guilt of living while others die.All told, I was surprised by this book. I was taken in, and I got more out of it than I expected. Not a work of enormous literary merit, but definitely deserving of a read.

Charles M.

Really wanted to like this book; and it could have been a much better read. Story of viewpoint of a family's members of a son's apparent horrific murder of his girlfriend. Unfortunately, we do not know what the alleged culprit thinks about all this until midway in the book; and the ending leaves a rather empty feeling of not knowing enough about the entire story.


** spoiler alert ** This book is every parent's nightmare: your child is accused of a brutal murder, and all signs point to his guilt. Everything that happens is imbued with a sense of dread. The father acts quickly to get rid of damning evidence. The son disappears. The author switches narrators to give a picture of how the event affected each family member. Perversely, I wished that the last segment could have been in the killer's voice. It is more ambiguous that that wasn't the case, but decidedly less dramatic!


Excellent so far - can't wait until I can sit & read it!I had such high wasn't terrible, but not nearly as good as I had hoped....long-winded sections that were quite dull, unlikeable characters one & all. If Jacob were my son, I'd be afraid to turn my back on him if he was in a bad mood. By the same token, I'd feel like locking him in a room for the rest of his life....Read Defending Jacob rather than this if you haven't read it - similar (the boys even share a name); not dull like this book.


A welcome twist to the crime novel.The setting is small town New Hampshire. The secret girlfriend of high school student Jacob Reiser is found dead in the snow and all of the clues point to Jacob. Before and After is a crime novel with a big twist. Rather than following a policeman or the fleeing criminal, it follows the family of the accused and what they go through. The book's title refers to life before and after the crime and how the seemingly perfect family is ripped apart. It is told in the first person from the perspectives of mom, dad and sister (interestingly, never from Jacob's point of view). The brother and son they thought they knew is now a stranger. At times, this book is an emotionally abusive roller coaster, but it would be an interesting read for a discussion group concerning the reactions of the family, especially the father and his criminal acts to cover up evidence and his obsession to help his son. I'll give this book a 4 stars out of 5 for finding an interesting way to add a welcome twist to the crime novel.

Erma Aker

This book is about a family whose beloved son kills his girlfriend. The different reactions of the family speak volumes about the definition of loyalty and love.


I loved the movie, and usually if I love the movie, I love the book even more. NOT so with this book. I picked it up at a paperback sale and it was like swimming through lava to get through it. It just dragged on and on and on and on. The different POV were interesting (although I don't get why Ben was written in first person and Judith and Carolyn in second person) and I am sure that the scattered train of thought of the parents was meant to accurately portray just how scattered any parents would be if this happened to their family. Very different from the movie in terms of what REALLY happened with Jacob and Martha Taverner...and as I was reading Carolyn's part in the book, I could hear Meryl Streep talking. Same with Jacob and Edward Furlong. Very unusual for me to like a movie more, but in this case...the movie was better. Favorite quote: "First off, you're in New Hampshire, Ben. This isn't Texas, one of those wild and crazy Southern states that love to pull the lever."I find that funny because Houston is where they end up moving to after the trial!!![image error]


This is a pretty interesting read. It's a novel about a teenage boy who murders his girlfriend. It follows the entire family through the experience. Each chapter is written from a different family member's perspective. It was assigned as a book to read for one of my classes, where the intent was to diagnose and/or explain the behaviors of the family based on what I knew about abnormal development and mental health disorders. From that perspective it was a really interesting read!


I read this book again after reading it perhaps 15 years or more ago. I still found it fascinating. A teenager kills his girlfriend -- we know that right from the beginning. But then what? What happens in his family between him and his parents, between his mom and his dad? And what about his younger sister? Questions of loyalty, responsibility, moral courage, all of these figure prominently in the book. How do we reconcile behavior of our loved ones with society's expectations? What should we do to protect our loved ones: our children, our spouse? Lots to think about in this well-written tale of a family in distress.


not a fan of this book, interesting side of a tragedy to tell similar to Jodi Picoult but wasn't written nearly as well. Didn't care about the characters and the story just seemed to keep going, didn't like the ending either.

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