73 pages 2 hours read

Jacqueline Woodson

Before the Ever After

Fiction | Novel/Book in Verse | Middle Grade | Published in 2020

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Part 1, Pages 23-87Chapter Summaries & Analyses

Part 1

Part 1, Pages 23-87 Summary

Life begins to change in “On My Daddy’s Shoulders.” ZJ remembers his father’s coach telling him to stay home and seeing his father’s hands shaking. In “The First Time, Again,” Daddy tells a joke, and ZJ tells him it was funny the first time. ZJ’s father believes this moment is the first time. He shouts and begins to cry, both things he never does in front of ZJ. These behavior changes become more frequent and more frightening for ZJ and his mother as time passes. Zachariah Sr. also begins to experience headaches that leave him crying and moaning with pain all day long. Some days, Daddy experiences so much pain that the family has to tiptoe around the house, keeping the lights off and curtains drawn closed to avoid worsening the pain.

The major turning point for both the family and ZJ’s friends occurs on New Year’s Eve, 1999. As the boys count down the new year, Zachariah Sr bursts into the room. He yells for the boys to turn the music down, and he doesn’t recognize any of ZJ’s friends. The next day, the boys try to figure out why that happened, and Daniel is the only one who recognizes something is seriously wrong.