before and after

img_17252Before and After by Rosellen Brown was published in 1992.  I read it in August of 2006 and gave it to everyone I knew for Christmas.  It’s about a marriage and a family. It’s narrated in alternating chapters primarily by the husband and wife, Ben and Carolyn, and also by one of the children, Judith.

You won’t be able to put it down.  And be sure to notice how the narrative is strung along this thing that happens, but the story–what it’s about–is the relationship between the members of the family, in particular the husband and the wife.

At the beginning of the novel, the wife’s voice, although in the past tense, is more immediate to the action.  She’s at work and then washing her hands at the sink.  We live through the events with her.  The husband’s voice, on the other hand, is distant to what happened, more reflective, beginning in the present tense, speaking to us from some future time:  “I’m going to talk about that day…I’m coming toward it slowly. I can’t rush up on the seam between before and after. (Not seam, no way. Excuse me.  Chasm.)”

Just discovered it was made into a film in 1996, starring Meryl Streep and Liam Neeson.

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