The Sweet Hereafter
In The Sweet Hereafter, Russell Banks tells a story that begins with a school bus accident. Using four different narrators, Banks creates a small-town morality play that addresses one of life's most agonizing questions: when the worst thing happens, who do you blame?
17 dead teenagers
2 living teenagers
1 bus driver (female)
Five large scoops of ice and snow
1 small town
Approx 35 parents
Reporters (a handful will do)
1 oz morality
10 oz sentimentality
1 box soapflakes
4 boxes Kleenex
Sprinkle the ice and snow on the road. Tilt the road 25 degrees, with the edge of the road close to the edge of the river (this is called the banks). Add the teenagers and the driver to the bus...more
Writing-wise, there is nothing special in this book. The prose is simple, readable and sometimes even boring. There are a few meaningful verses but none that can be gleamed as original or hits you really hard. However, what's lacking in verse is adequately augmented by the thought-provoking questions that this book opens to the reader and in the end, offers answers as well.
When is an accident an ac...more
Russell Banks, Russell Banks, Russell Banks. If I write his name enough it might conjure a complete sentence from my mind, as though his name alone might rub some of his magic off on me and I could explain this novel to you. Russell Banks. It's not working.
I just read Affliction which a truly incredible movie was adapted from, adapted so well that it seemed to make the novel a non-event for me, yet I knew tha...more
In fact, and one doesn't often hear this, especially on Goodreads, but the movie is better than the book. In the movie, directed by Atom Egoyan, the story of a school bus in a upstate NY town going into the lake is dealt with in the aftermath. Most of the children of the town are dead, and lawyers show up,...more
Having said that, I love both the book and the movie, for reasons I'm not sure I can explain. The movie was actually one of the first DVDs I ever bought, at a time when DVDs were still kind of magical, and I watched it backwards and forwards. I listened to the commentary tracks; I watche...more
I hated the way it was written. I didn’t like this fellows style at all. None of the characters came off as especially likeable, or real, or endearing, or brave… or anything. There was nothing stand out of the four people in the town chosen to narrate. Their story was sad, something stand out in itself. And perhaps that was meant to be the meat, that was meant to be all that stood out. But...more
The story is told by four different people who are in some way connected to the accident, and there are four parts or chapters, one for each, then a final chapter. What I thought was clever was that even though they are all talking in first person about the accident, the story ends up being chronological - the bus driver describing the morning of the accident up until it just starts to happen, the father who is in a car following the bus...more
Still, the two books of his I've read have broken my heart. I'm not running out to the store to buy the rest of his catalog. I'm old and haggard and jaded enough as it is.
The Sweet Hereafter gives u...more
The writing was good, and at times the words were profound and very insightful. On the whole, I liked the book and I'm glad I read it. I wouldn't...more
I was drawn to reading this book after seeing the movie a few years ago. Although the movie was true to the story in action, the motives of the...more
In my experience, depression has hope attached to it. There seems to be beginnings, middles, ends, peaks, valleys, spikes, etc., to it. It can be softened by exercise, good food, literature, art, fresh air, et...more
The story felt sweet and true and tragic. Full of that familiar feeling of wanting to hold someone, somewhere accountable for something that God in her infinite wisdom should not have let h...more
Accidents like the one in Banks’ novel are only a pindrop in the daily news we hear, but through his shifting perspectives the reader is left knee-deep in the small town of Sam Dent and what has happened to it. As is stated early on, “A town that loses its children loses its meaning.” Each voice notes, in his or her own way, the immensity of the scenery along with the goings-on and emotions. It on...more
But now I am struggling to grasp what happened at Sandy Hook Elementary School, to find meaning in the tragedy. There are no answers in real world. Sometimes I think that only through art can we find meaning.
I'd been thinking that it was a simple tale of a big-city lawyer ambulance chasing in a town of naive country folk, but everyone really faced such knotty problems about telling the truth and about deciding whom to believe. And the characters were m...more
It's been a long time, since high school 25 years ago, since I read The Bridge of San Luis Rey, but I seem to remember that it used a very similar technique; multiple first-person accounts of a very tragic event. I'm going to put The Bridge of San Luis Rey...more
This is a book about small towns, about the impossibility for a parent to come to terms w/ the death of a child, about why we desire to place blame when something bad and out of our control happens to those we love. It is a book about the nature of an accident - in the big picture of life, why would 14 children die in a bus crash, why did some survive and others not, why...more
Instead of focusing on one person's perspective, Russell Banks uses four different narrators and their reactions to the horrible bus accident where numerous local children are killed. The four narrators were Dolores Driscoll (the bus driver during the time of the accident), Billy Ansel (a parent of two of the children that died in the accident and was the only witness), Mitchell Stephens (a lawyer that almost succeeded in turning t...more