Amanda's Reviews > The Sweet Hereafter

The Sweet Hereafter by Russell Banks
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's review
Jan 02, 2012

really liked it
Read from November 24 to December 01, 2011

I watched the movie to this book in college, for my "Problem of Evil" Religion Course (the second best class I have ever taken.) Ever since then it has been on my "to-read" list. I still remember going into Micawber Books in Princeton, after watching the movie, and pulling it off the shelf to consider buying it. The very same style-copy I finally bought, now, 13 years later. Who knows why books come into our heads, but take so long to actually make it into our hands.

The reading of this book was NOT triggered by the previous books I read, it was a happy (or unhappy) accident. I picked it up, not doubt after having picked up and started a handful of others, over Thanksgiving break and settled comfortably in it.

It is a very tender book. Heartbreaking and sad and as we surely know from the get-go, without a satisfying resolution. There are no big messages, no sweeping generalizations about suffering and loss, no grand conclusions about how to live after heartbreak, just meticulous descriptions about how three characters experienced and processed the event, and how one lawyer tried to help the townspeople generate a class action suit. He knew, just as well as they surely knew, that no one was to blame, but seemed to be of the mind that someone should pay, and it was just a matter of spinning the right tale to generate a paying culprit.

Banks is a fine writer -- the language felt very real to the particular narrator. I had no problems with this book, but confess I found it less emotionally gripping than I feel I should have based on the content. Particularly now that I have my own son, I do not understand why a story like this one, about many sons and daughters perishing in a bus accident, did not bring me to tears.

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