Before

A Novel (Heaven's Door Series)

Fiction - Literary
500 Pages
Reviewed on 01/26/2022
Buy on Amazon

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Author Biography

J. Kilburn lives a quiet life on the shore of America's sixth Great Lake. Kilburn has dabbled in law enforcement, private security, emergency medicine, truck driving, and horse-logging. Other occupations have included at-risk youth mentor, big-city process server, park ranger, and industrial wastewater treatment operator. He's pedaled to 14,000 feet, been marooned overnight on a deserted island, ridden a motorcycle from Chicago to Thunder Bay, and hiked Vermont's highest peaks to watch sunsets on both the longest and coldest days of the year. When not at work he and his wife enjoy life around a little urban farm with greenhouse, garden, and mini-barn for chickens.

I was inspired to write by a terrible, horrible crime that occurred in our community. It just stayed with me, even as news and talk of the event and the victim gradually faded away. I wanted to bring it back into the light, that the victim might be remembered for a heroic decision and worthy act that ultimately led to a bitter end. It started as a short story, then I kept writing and it became a book, then I kept writing other stories with the same characters and it became a series - some of it very dark and bittersweet, some tales wholesome, inspiring, and light-hearted.

If readers come away appreciating the sacrifice, pain, and angst of those who still wait for a deceased or missing law officer to "come home," my hard work at the keyboard has paid off.

Remember them.

    Book Review

Reviewed by Jamie Michele for Readers' Favorite

Before by J. Kilburn is a coming-of-age satire that pieces together the lives of a tribe of kids, and is part of the author's Heaven's Door series. There are many moving pieces in this novel and various point of view characters. The narrative weaves between third-person and omniscient, but all stress the generational divide between teenagers who are doing their best to have nothing to do with, or be nothing like their parents, and parents who think their daughter is just getting fat when she is actually pregnant. And not a lesbian, most of the time. Somewhere between banana-seat bicycles, GEDs, hockey practice, and cigarette-perfect joints between ruby-red lips, the young group provides insight in this prequel and a fly-on-the-wall perspective of what transpires Before Heaven's Door.


First of all, I'd like to start by getting it out there that I read this book first. Yes, I read Before prior to anything else and I do hope the book that follows is as good. I love a good coming-of-age story, particularly when paired with mischievous, everyday kids who turn out to be anything but. J. Kilburn breathes life into them with some hilariously awkward scenes some of us will be able to relate to, and others that probably nobody will be able to relate to at all. Or at least I seriously hope nobody will. The writing is clean and tight even if it is sometimes a bit loquacious between dialogues, but the dialogue is worth the wait given that it is probably among the top 1% in its sarcasm and authenticity. Nell Zink and the novel Nicotine come to mind, and I have no doubt others who read this novel will find themselves both amused and bewildered in the best possible way.