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Affliction

3.99  ·  Rating details ·  2,987 Ratings  ·  205 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
ebook, 368 pages
Published January 17th 2012 by Harper Perennial (first published 1989)
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Tfitoby
Sep 22, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: lit
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
...more
Tyler
Oct 14, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
...more
John Dispitto
Nov 06, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Russell Banks è a mio avviso uno che sa scrivere e molto bene.
La storia, pur basandosi su elementi definibili "quotidiani", esprime al meglio le relazioni umane e le difficoltà nel porle in essere, rendendo la tensione del racconto sempre alta.
Uno dei più bei romanzi letti, dove le relazioni scandiscono e destano l'interesse alla storia. Bellissima anche la cornice dei luoghi e dell'ambiente dove ha luogo il racconto. Terra che indurisce gli animi e lascia poco spazio all'esternazione dei sentim
...more
Cyrus
Apr 02, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Larry Bassett
Sep 28, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
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
...more
Gerald
Feb 12, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: conservatives who want to cut social programs
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Carol Storm
This is a powerful book, and I enjoyed reading it. The pain of Wade's childhood and the lasting damage caused by his father's abuse 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. Banks is both a defeatist and a pessimist. His outlook is rigidly fatalistic. He tends to force symbolic meanings into the story based on the abuse the main character suffers. The problem is, Wade get
...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
Josh
Dec 28, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favourites
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
CasualDebris
From 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, thinking and f
...more
S.
Nov 07, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-in-2009
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
Julie Christine
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.
Ubik 2.0
Nov 17, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Joey Gold
Apr 22, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Marika
Jun 03, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
So sad. So hopeless. Take a guy that wants to be good, wants the simple things most people want --home, family, job. Then watch as life beats him up. As spirals will do, this one starts out slow and gentle, but unrelentingly picks up speed and dumps its victim out in hell.

I guess it isn't a unique story. What sold it for me was the total believability of the main character, Wade. I don't actually know anyone like him, but I "know" him. I see him everywhere, just trying to keep it together but ne
...more
Albert
Jan 11, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: reviewed
Affliction was the first novel I have read by Russell Banks. This is a difficult novel and a difficult author to which to describe my reactions. There is a realism here that some part of me feels that I should appreciate and should benefit from. In the back of my mind, though, I can’t help but think of Russell Banks as Richard Russo with a very negative world view. The setting for Russell Banks is New Hampshire versus Russo’s upper New York state. Similar small town trying to survive given the l ...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
...more
Snotchocheez
Aug 24, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
As I sit here typing this, I recalled why I chose to re-read this book: It's 96 degrees today with 95% humidity and wanted something cool to think about...and this filled the bill...albeit in a depressing manner. "Affliction" is chilly all right...and not just the setting (the New Hampshire Mountains in the wintertime)...it's somber, totally depressing stuff...and yet...not so over the top that you can't get chills down the spine wondering what nadirs of depravity the protagonist (a small town c ...more
Ray Catellier
Sep 29, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Julia
Mar 09, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Jan 22, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
...more
Farhan
Oct 12, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Wendy Wakeman
Nov 08, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Some of the most beautiful writing I've read, on what it means to be human. I picked it up to examine its unusual point of view--the story is told by the protagonist's brother, not actually present for the events. Also admired its use of setting. The book moves slowly, in the way literary fiction often does, but the rewards are rich characters and a true world.
Alessandro Pontorno
Quando avevo 12 o 13 anni provavo una sorta di oscura fascinazione mista a timore per quei compagni di scuola solitamente pluri-bocciati che erano sempre in prima linea quando si trattava di fare a botte, provocare, atteggiarsi da duro o millantare vere/presunte imprese che riguardassero ragazze, bravate o abusi di alcol. A quell'età non mi domandavo cosa ci fosse dietro quella maschera, dietro quel personaggio che veniva interpretato immancabilmente ogni mattina, né potevo sapere quale dolore l ...more
Amy
Jan 22, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: adult-fiction
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
Garrett Zecker
Aug 01, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Tim
Oct 24, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Marcie
Apr 23, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Wow. Haunting and sad. The early pages of this book describe small town life like no other book I've ever read and, having grown up in a small town and fled as soon as I was able, his portrayal resonated with me. The depression, desperation, frustration, hopelessness and ultimately resignation Banks so eloquently describes sums up what I've been trying to put into words all my adult life. Paradoxically, when the book's ending describes how quickly a small town can lose its sense of community (dy ...more
Monica Sanderson
May 13, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I liked this book. But I was quite shocked to come across this passage from a book written in 1989 (bold and censoring mine):

"'Maybe we could sneak that through the budget next town meeting, a new car for Wade Whitehouse. Get you a full-sized Olds or something, or a Bronco, not one of them little K-cars that f*cking Lee Iacocca makes. That guy gets to me, you know?' he went on, swiveling his chair around and swinging his legs up onto the desktop. 'First he goes broke, then he gets the taxpayers
...more
Jayne Benjulian
May 13, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Banks writes prose that makes you slow down and happily so. In fact, Banks' language is gorgeous and straightforward at the same time. The plot is strong, but if you're reading for plot you miss the book. It's one of those novels in which you want to pay attention to the character of the narrator and to the structure that narrator creates for the story. It's a "man's" novel full of guns, deer hunting, and violence; uncharacteristically, I loved reading it. That says something.
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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
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“Other people were in one world; he was in a second. And the distance between their worlds caused other concern and perplexity made them curious about him -- for here he was alone in his world; and there they were gathered together in theirs.” 0 likes
“One minute he was moving securely through time and space, in perfect coordination with other people; then, with no warning, he was out of step, was somehow removed from everyone else's sense of time and place, so that the slightest movement, word, facial expression or gesture contained enormous significance. The room filled with coded messages that he could not decode, and he slipped quickly into barely controlled hysteria.” 0 likes
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