Connie Kuntz's Reviews > The Sweet Hereafter

The Sweet Hereafter by Russell Banks
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Dec 18, 09

Recommended to Connie by: Richard Vargas
Recommended for: Those who enjoy philosophy, morality issues, contemplating aftermath
Read in December, 2009, read count: once

I'm no expert on the clinical definitions of either depression or sadness, but I have been depressed and, of course, I have been sad. I have never actually thought about the difference between the two until this book and now I think I have some (not much, but some) clarity between the two.

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, etc.. Sadness, however, is a constant. It is always there. It doesn't go away. It is ghostly. Once it makes its presence known, it changes everything. This book, The Sweet Hereafter, to me, is about sadness.

The Sweet Hereafter takes place in the 80's in a rural area called Sam Dent which a strange town located near Lake Placid. On a cold January morning a schoolbus crashes into an icy lake. Most of the kids on the bus died. Delores the driver survives as do a few kids.

The story analyzes the emotional and logical perspective of the driver, the now paralyzed girl, a grieving father and an (out-of-town) lawyer who tries to cash in on the tragedy. Russell Banks also sheds light on the perceived perspective of the families of the aforementioned victims.

The story also subtly analyzes how a tragedy like a bus crash can end extramarital affairs and child molestation. This is one of those books that reminds me just how dangerous secret sex really is. If anything momentous happens during a sexual tryst, neither of the parties involved can truthfully say what they were doing when that happened. For example, say you were in a motel having an affair when you learned about 911. If you are essentially "caught" by that moment in time, it will likely change two things: (1) how you remember 911 and (2) the desire to continue the affair. Things will change. The author examines the behavorior and attitude changes of the people involved in those untruthful moments truthfully but without being a judgmental jerk.

This book also examines the multi-faceted nature of blame, guilt, expectation and exploitation.

For my own future reference, I would like to point out that this author writes in a way that reminds me of Jodi Picoult. He offers different perspectives from those involved in the story and tackles moral issues with a delicate and nonjudgmental touch.

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11/27/2009 page 7
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