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Affliction

3.97 of 5 stars 3.97  ·  rating details  ·  2,258 ratings  ·  167 reviews
Wade Whitehouse is an improbable protagonist for a tragedy. A well-digger and policeman in a bleak New Hampshire town, he is a former high-school star gone to beer fat, a loner with a mean streak. It is a mark of Russell Banks' artistry and understanding that Wade comes to loom in one's mind as a blue-collar American Everyman afflicted by the dark secret of the macho tradi ...more
Paperback, 368 pages
Published September 26th 1990 by Harper Perennial (first published 1989)
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(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Tfitoby
This book was hard work and not even that rewarding as I'd previously seen Paul Schrader's wonderful movie several times. Sure having the impressive and powerful performance from Nick Nolte in mind throughout added a little extra oomph to proceedings but beyond that my efforts in reading this depressing and slow moving novel were not rewarded. Disappointment rules OK.

Of course I should have done this the other way around, devouring the literary wonder of Russell Banks before embarking on the sam
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Tyler
Jan 11, 2010 Tyler rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Anyone
Recommended to Tyler by: Various Reviews
What makes this story stand out is its narrator. Younger brother to Wade, the protagonist, the narrator relates his sibling's story with keen precision. And his account touches on family violence, a potent topic. Such a topic can be overdone in fifty ways and gotten right in perhaps only one. Having a narrator mediate the risk provides just the right distance. Russell Banks has an author's instinct for the best approach.

In the background, too, lies poverty. Banks avoids the temptation to lay it
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Larry Bassett
This is my second Russell Banks and it will not be my last. I read Lost Memory of Skin as my first and that encouraged me to move on to this one, albeit many months later. I have copies of Outer Banks Three Early Novels, The Angel on the Roof, Cloudsplitter, and The Sweet Hereafter on my shelf for future reads. Anyone have any suggestions from those books about where to head next with Banks?

The story Affliction is told by the younger brother of the protagonist, Wade Whitehouse. It is not complic
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Cyrus
I wanted to review a Russell Banks book, because he is one of if not my favorite authors post the 1970s or so. I've read most of his books and I wont get into Affliction so much as to make this a review of the author, who to me stands in contrast to all the twee cutesy crap that everyone seems to wet themselves over these days. The characters are real people who have to live in the real world (not the real world of college professors or the idle rich) Events outside of their control collide wit ...more
Gerald
Mar 10, 2008 Gerald rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: conservatives who want to cut social programs
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
CasualDebris
See the review at Casual Debris.

Small town New Hampshire police officer and local well digger Wade Whitehouse is having a crummy week. A crummy week following a crummy life. Overall a powerful novel, with some great characters, dialogue and absolutely fine writing.

Then why did it take me three weeks to finish this novel?

Told through the point of view of Wade's youngest brother Rolfe, who has pieced the events together in so horribly an obsessive manner that he can imagine what Wade was eating, t
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S.
A sad and powerful story, this is one of the best novels I've read so far this year. Early on there's a sentence about the snow falling and gravity, and I can't help but think of it as a metaphor for Wade, the main character, who seems hellbent on a path to his inevitable ruin. Banks is somewhat of a fatalist, even though he draws a contrast with Wade's brother Rolfe, the narrator, who seems both through character and circumstance (he managed to avoid childhood beatings) to escape a life like Wa ...more
Michael Shilling
Affliction is magisterial, heartbreaking, deeply intelligent, compassionate, and often a nailbiter. Banks writes beautiful sentences and amazing physical descriptions. That said, the book is at least 50 (single-spaced) pages too long due to repetitious and near-constant over-explaining of the protagonist's confusions, as well as some narrative elements that needn't get the amount of space they are provided, and excessive backstory. But I still had to give it 5 stars because a year out I think ab ...more
Julie
This is a dark, disturbing book but so compelling. Wade Whitehouse is caught up in a maelstrom of violence and self-destruction that is certain to end in a horrific last stand. The story is told with great care by his younger brother and is set in a New Hampshire town in the midst of a shrill winter. Banks once again holds me in the spell of his masterful prose.
Carol Storm
This is a powerful book, and I enjoyed reading it. The pain of Wade's childhood and the beatings he received from his father are absolutely convincing.

The trouble starts when Russell Banks tries to make larger points about the hopeless working class and the injustices of the American system. He tends to force symbolic meanings into the story based on the abuse the main character suffers. The problem is, not all working class kids are victims of abuse. And not all victims of abuse are doomed to w
...more
Amy
Wade Whitehouse. One of the most fleshed out characters in literature. At least in my opinion. A fleshed out form played out in the body and mind of Nick Nolte. Nick Nolte for me epitomizes Wade. That is why anyone who reads this book should definitely see the movie, "Affliction". I thought recently of who else could play Wade. Two other guys might have succeeded, Gary Busey and Jeff Conaway. Why? Because I believe it takes a broken, hardened man to play that role. Busey would probably have bord ...more
Jennifer
Banks' book starts off a bit slow with the overwhelming details of the town dwellers and the locale in NH. It helps but slows down the narrative before we're able to get to the heart of the story. Even the family conflict and addiction that becomes such a curse for Wade is presented almost halfway through the book culminating in a lot happening in the last few chapters.

I enjoyed Banks' writing and the details we get into this freezing, working class town that tends to break people down emotiona
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Tim
A small-town New Hampshire cop's poisonous heritage of darkness and violence is drawn to the surface with tragic consequences for those in his orbit in "Affliction," an early confirmation of Russell Banks' status as an elite American writer.

"Sometimes you just forget who you are," Wade Whitehouse says. "Especially when you're sick of who you are." Wade — victim of an abusive father, divorced twice (same woman), beholden to a town selectman who pulls the strings in both his jobs (cop, well drille
...more
Joey Gold
I half-expected something like "Mystic River"; a manly tale of complex relationships against a gritty scenery.
This book, however, is different in the way it goes deep into Wade, the main character. Although the landscape is rough and bleak, the way Russell Banks explores Wade's psyche is anything but virile. "Affliction" is a sensitive and uncompromising character study; I can see why Paul Schrader, the man who wrote "Taxi Driver", adapted this book into a movie.
The atmosphere is pessimistic.
...more
Josh
Okay...

I don't know if I can do Banks' novel any justice with a review. Just a few hours after finishing it, I'm still awe-struck and a little numb. All evening, I've felt myself digesting it. Felt it seeping from my brain into my blood. 'Affliction' is the kind of novel I would love to write. So, much of my adoration comes from a craft standpoint. I've read a few reviews complaining about Banks' style and I will say that it's challenging, but really only at the beginning. When I took Jonis Agee
...more
Mike
Rarely do we feel suffocated and unable to escape from a situation when reading a novel. Russell Banks is successful in creating an atmosphere that does not allow the reader a way out. Wade Whitehouse is doomed from the outset. This sense of doom comes from the setting. A small town turned in on itself and snow are the ingredients.

Aside from the story, Wade is a remarkably doomed character. There is no way for him to escape his "fate". Is it his childhood? His obvious mental illness? All that we
...more
Ray Catellier
Wonderful book. I remember how poignant the performances of the actors in the film version with Nick Nolte and James Coburn.

I can relate and sympathize with Wade Whitehouse, with his problem with anger, depression and alcohol issues, and how Wade can spiral out of control.

One could think of Wade as a 'monster' and a bad person, but I don't see him as this at all. I see Wade as a wonderful man, but who has suffered a great amount and given a raw deal in life.

Wade, just like all of us, needs someo
...more
Clark Maddux
A heart-breaking story about an unhappy man living his life poorly. Banks manages to make me feel, even empathize, with Wade Whitehouse, perhaps in part because my own life could have been his at another time. A very human story that is at once highly particular, related with a laser-like focus, and disturbingly universal.
Julia
I am overwhelmed with awe at the perfection of this book. It is set just a few miles from my childhood home, with characters so finely drawn that I could see and hear them, though admittedly I am already familiar with this particular population. This concept of a life balanced on the fulcrum of time and circumstance is one that I agree with wholeheartedly. Watching this particular life as it sways and teeters, as a few random events, assumptions and reactions tip it over in a dizzying and dramat ...more
Paul Statt
People have been recommending Russell Banks to me, probably since 1989, when Affliction was published. "Why," I used to ask, "just because I'm a middle-aged angry white man from New Hampshire, from a family of abusive and abused swamp Yankees?"

Well, yes. Amazing story of middle-aged white anger and abuse among the swamp Yankees. Extraordinary example of the unreliable narrator, as good as Nabokov. (Let's not forget that Lolita also took place in the Granite State.)

Also an amazing employment of
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Russell Bittner
As I wrote last month in my review of The Sweet Hereafter, “Russell Banks accomplishes a psychological study par excellence.” The same is true of Affliction. If there’s a difference in the number of stars I’ve awarded to the two works, that difference resides in this: Affliction has – at least to my way of thinking – narrative errors. Any editor worth his or her stripes could’ve spotted those errors and pointed them out to Mr. Banks. (S)he did not. The work went to press as is.


What I will say i
...more
Garrett Zecker
An incredible novel, Affliction is a gorgeous work of prose that outlines the steady decline and unraveling of one man in the face of a standard rubric of a modern American cycle of destruction. The writing is spellbinding, moving through the atmosphere and small New Hampshire community like a camera darting about and focusing on its inhabitants and our main protagonist freely as our narrator (his brother) pieces together the final moments of his life.

The story is at times a simple mystery, wor
...more
Mary
A great and moody, wintry book, I fell right in. I'm fascinated by books that successfully make the narrator a character who is writing about someone else's life, and the narrator is barely involved in the actual story. It's so difficult to pull off, and so much fun to read when it's done well.

Didn't really love the ending, but I'm a scrooge about endings--I love so few.
Christian Schwoerke
This story appears to have multiple levels; the author has created a narrator who speaks about events he wasn’t always witness to. The question is whether this particular screen is one that was employed to help the author establish discrepancies and doubt and incertitude or whether it was employed for the purpose of having a particular voice that better suited the characters and their story. And whose story is it, the narrator’s or the people about whom he’s writing? The narrator, Rolfe Whitehou ...more
Nick Duretta
The small town of Lawford, New Hampshire, is not an easy place to live. At least, if you can trust Banks' (probably accurate) depiction of it; the icy northern climate is unforgiving, and the town's inhabitants seem trapped in their often self-made prisons of poverty, intransigence, greed and denial. This novel primarily concerns Wade Whitehouse, basically a good man corrupted by an abusive father, a submissive mother, and betrayals of those who call themselves his friends and neighbors. His dow ...more
Andreasoldier
Feb 12, 2014 Andreasoldier rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Andreasoldier by: John

When I give this book 4 stars, it is not because I "liked" it. It is because it is intense, thought-provoking, well-written close-to-the-bone story of a man caught in a suicidal spiral.

I read a very morose Irish mystery before starting this, and had to put it down for a week while I read something more "up.'

Narrated by his younger brother, who lives a suburban life outside Boston, we are introduced to Wade Whitehouse, a well-digger and the single police officer in tiny upstate New Hampshire town

...more
Erwin Maack
"Qualquer pessoa que tivesse conhecido um dos personagens , tivesse lido os jornais de domingo ou visto o noticiário da televisão conhecia os fatos. Mas os fatos não fazem a história; os fatos sequer fazem os acontecimentos. Sem significado e sem a compreensão das causas e conexões, um fato é uma partícula isolada de experiência, é luz refletida sem uma fonte, planeta sem sol, estrela sem constelação, constelação fora de galáxia, galáxia fora do universo -o fato não é nada.
Ainda assim, os fatos
...more
Merrellmichael
I had a hard time reviewing this novel, mostly because it hit me so hard, and personally, that I wasnt expecting it at all. Affliction is about a man named Wade Whitehouse, about his successes and failures, mostly failures, but ultimately about the rage that threatens to consume him, and where it came from. Having battled demons of my own over the years, and to this day, I can utterly relate.
The characters in this book are brilliantly realized shades of grey. No one is quite innocent, but no one
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Caterina
"The great enigma of human life is not suffering but affliction." Russell Banks has a way with titles. He introduces the novel with this quotation from Simone Weil's essay The Love of God and Affliction. I'm not sure the novel fully lives up to the promise of this quotation, but it is as an intense exploration of human violence, alcoholism, and poverty among the author's own people of the neglected and destitute towns of northern New Hampshire.

The story is framed as a crime drama narrated by th
...more
Farhan
An in-depth character study of a lonely small-town sheriff who is divorced from his wife and has very limited rights to visit his pre-teen daughter whom he adores. A series of unhappy events slowly leads him towards violence.

Banks uses this character-driven novel as a device to discuss themes such as the predictable and unambitious lives of people in small-town America, domestic violence, and far-reaching ramifications of a dysfunctional family on the lives of children even long after they have
...more
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Russell Banks is a member of the International Parliament of Writers and a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters. His work has been translated into twenty languages and has received numerous international prizes and awards. He has written fiction, and more recently, non-fiction, with Dreaming up America. His main works include the novels Continental Drift, Rule of the Bone, Cloudsplit ...more
More about Russell Banks...
Rule of the Bone The Sweet Hereafter Lost Memory of Skin Cloudsplitter Continental Drift

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