The Sweet Hereafter

Written by: Russell Banks

The Sweet Hereafter Book Cover
When fourteen children from the small town of Sam Dent are lost in a tragic accident, its citizens are confronted with one of life’s most difficult and disturbing questions: When the worst happens, whom do you blame, and how do you cope? Masterfully written, it is a large-hearted novel that brings to life a cast of unforgettable small-town characters and illuminates the mysteries and realities of love as well as grief.
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The Sweet Hereafter Reviews

Georgiana
"Cand li se naruie visele, unii oameni devin superstitiosi din nevoia de a gasi o explicatie la ce li s-a intamplat"
Wendy
I couldn't have picked a better time to be reading this book. After finding a cyclist lying in the road, a victim of a hit and run this week, I couldn't help but compare the real life drama I experienced to the one in the book. The story is told through the eyes of several of the main characters, each having a chapter to talk about the story as it unfolds. I really liked the idea of telling the story of a tragedy through differing perspectives. The main gist of the story is one of a school bus t I couldn't have picked a better time to be reading this book. After finding a cyclist lying in the road, a victim of a hit and run this week, I couldn't help but compare the real life drama I experienced to the one in the book. The story is told through the eyes of several of the main characters, each having a chapter to talk about the story as it unfolds. I really liked the idea of telling the story of a tragedy through differing perspectives. The main gist of the story is one of a school bus that goes off the road, down an embankment, and into a pond. Many of the children on the bus die, but the driver does not. Personal injury lawyers swarm the town. I can't say much more without spoiling the plot but it was interesting how it all turned out. I guess there is a movie but I haven't seen it. I may have to.

And btw, the driver of the hit and run that I saw was caught. The cyclist is going to be ok. Grateful for that.
Simone Subliminalpop
Secondo libro che leggo di Banks, dopo l’ottima raccolta di racconti intitolata “L’angelo sul tetto”, e devo dire che si conferma un abile narratore e un perfetto indagatore dell’uomo e di quello che lo circonda, dei meccanismi che lo fanno interagire con i suoi simili e con se stesso.

“Come in Faulkner, James o Melville, il contesto del luogo e della realtà sociale è solo un pretesto. Sin dall’inizio, non si sa quello che sta per accadere, ma si sa che è importante. E quello che sta per accadere Secondo libro che leggo di Banks, dopo l’ottima raccolta di racconti intitolata “L’angelo sul tetto”, e devo dire che si conferma un abile narratore e un perfetto indagatore dell’uomo e di quello che lo circonda, dei meccanismi che lo fanno interagire con i suoi simili e con se stesso.

“Come in Faulkner, James o Melville, il contesto del luogo e della realtà sociale è solo un pretesto. Sin dall’inizio, non si sa quello che sta per accadere, ma si sa che è importante. E quello che sta per accadere è il male.” – parole di Gustav Herling su Banks

“Negli Stati Uniti, da una ventina d’anni, qualcosa di terribile è accaduto ai nostri bambini. Li abbiamo persi. L’America è in uno stato di crisi profonda, antropologica, in cui le istituzioni di base (famiglia, scuola, chiesa, villaggio, comunità) sono crollate le une dopo le altre. Con la perdita dei nostri bambini, l’avvenire passa dietro di noi, e ci lascia di fronte al dolce domani illusorio.” – parole dell’autore stesso.
Running Dog :: Eastern Standard Tribe :: Escape, Or Die: Authentic Stories Of The RAF Escaping Society :: Reach for the Sky :: Success Stories
Chris
Small town tragedy told through four first-person accounts (a survivor, a cause (?), a victim, and a lawyer), each of which muddies the waters by misinterpreting the intents and natures of the other, by mucking up details, and by generally tossing about fistfuls of ambiguity. The characters are clear, though more could probably be done to separate their diction. Banks wrestles well with forms of grief, with the need for blame, with the secret lives we all live, and in the end with the way a comm Small town tragedy told through four first-person accounts (a survivor, a cause (?), a victim, and a lawyer), each of which muddies the waters by misinterpreting the intents and natures of the other, by mucking up details, and by generally tossing about fistfuls of ambiguity. The characters are clear, though more could probably be done to separate their diction. Banks wrestles well with forms of grief, with the need for blame, with the secret lives we all live, and in the end with the way a community struggles to overcome broad tragedy.

After the overwrought near-mess of Banks' Rule of the Bone this was a welcome surprise.
Andrew
Russell Banks explores the nature of a small town tragedy and its aftermath in The Sweet Hereafter.

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 Russell Banks explores the nature of a small town tragedy and its aftermath in The Sweet Hereafter.

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 only emphasizes the character’s (and the reader’s?) small and lonely part in the play of it all. All in all, Banks has written a wonderfully sad book that you should read, if only once.
M.J. Fiori
I didn't know if I'd ever read this book, having seen Atom Egoyan's movie, which is excellent. The story is just too sad, and the bleak, grey, ice-cold, grief-soaked atmosphere that the film so believably creates is not a world you want to linger in.

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.
Jien
I had to read this for a writing class. The book was bad, the class was bad, I tried to watch the movie but it was too dull to get through. There just wasn't anything in the story worth reading about.
Susan Bybee
Beautifully sad and nuanced portrait of a small upstate New York community after a fatal school bus crash. I've heard that the movie is even better.
Tom Hoffman
I had to read this for school. It was fine I guess. Not much to say about it
Laura LVD
I received this book in an exchange and didnt know the author. Was nicely surprised, the book is awesome and the ending even more so.
Christian Schwoerke
This was a very satisfying novel, compelling and thoughtful, and ultimately very moving. Banks’ story is an examination of what the death of several children mean to a small community, and how, in particular, it affects particular individuals. Ultimately redemption for the loss lies in community. Banks uses the novel to show that community is a pair of lovers, a family, an entire township.

Banks’ narrative strategy is brilliantly simple. The novel is divided into five sections, each narrated by a This was a very satisfying novel, compelling and thoughtful, and ultimately very moving. Banks’ story is an examination of what the death of several children mean to a small community, and how, in particular, it affects particular individuals. Ultimately redemption for the loss lies in community. Banks uses the novel to show that community is a pair of lovers, a family, an entire township.

Banks’ narrative strategy is brilliantly simple. The novel is divided into five sections, each narrated by a different speaker, except the final section, which resumes the story of the first narrator, the bus driver who was behind the wheel when the bus went off the road and sunk in the cold water of a neglected sand pit. The events of the novel cover about seven months, and each voice, in succession, advances the chronology and events surrounding the children’s deaths. The narratives overlap and interweave, so that by the end of the novel, in modernist fashion, a single story has been woven of the strands of many different voices and different perspectives.

The bus driver Dolores Driscoll begins by recollecting the day when the event occurred, how it had begun to snow, how she had seen a dog earlier, how another seemed to emerge on the flats, and how she’d tried to avoid what might’ve been a dog. She also provides a good deal of detail about the denizens of the little upstate New York town of Sam Dent as she describes her bus route, and how each child was brought aboard the bus that morning. She mentions that she’s been driving for over 20 years, having begun in 1968; mentions that her husband has been for six years semi-paralyzed from a stroke, that he’s a wise, word-conscious, almost prophetic man.

Billy Ansel was in the pickup truck behind the bus when it went into the sandpit. He narrates the second section of the novel. He served in Vietnam, came back to Sam Dent and married his childhood sweetheart, and opened up a thriving gas and service station. He’s half dead by his own account, still devastated by the loss of his wife four years earlier, and he’s been drinking since that time, though it’s become much heavier since he lost his eight-year-old twins. Before the children’s deaths, he’d been having an affair with a Risa Walker, who, with her husband Wendell, ran a slowly dying motel at the edge of town. Risa and Wendell lost their child, too, and the affair simply dies, neither having any further need to talk of love, their reactions to their losses too different to reconcile. Ansel encounters a lawyer who tries to get him to join with others in a negligence suit.

The lawyer Mitchel Stephens, whom Billy Ansel met, repeats this part of the story, though makes it clear that he was actually alienating Ansel in order to keep him on tap for evidence that will exculpate Dolores of any wrongdoing. Stephens is fueled by anger and rage, and it’s not money that interests him. He is angry by disposition, aggravated by his divorce and the rupture between him and his daughter, an on-again off-again derelict and two-bit addict who only calls him for more money. His rage is that all children are dead, that institutions in America corrupt and kill children and childhood. The only thing is to make those who’ve done it pay. He brings the Walkers into the suit, and the Ottos, but he cannot convince Dolores Driscoll to join them, trusting her husband when speaks oracularly about truth, justice, absolution lying with the community. Stephens also brings into his negligence suit the prominent church-going Burnells whose 14-year-old daughter of promise was made a cripple.

Nichole Burnell could not remember what had happened just before and after the bus left the road, and she woke to find herself in the hospital. After about two months of recuperation and therapy in the hospital, she returns home where she lives with her parents, younger sister, and two brothers, both of whom survived. Her father has made all sorts of improvements around the house for her installation in a first-floor room, but he no longer looks directly at her and seems to avoid her. She realizes that his behavior with her before was not some bad dream, that it was both real and wrong, that he’d molested her. She is to give her deposition that summer about what she can remember about the bus before it left the road. She overhears Ansel appeal to her parents to drop the suit, that it’s tearing up the town, dividing people against each other. Nichole wants only to have things normal, cleansed, and restored. To this end, she lies at the deposition, stating that she observed the speedometer of the bus showing 72 mph, considerably more than the speed limit.

In the final section of the novel, Dolores recounts how she has felt herself ostracized, which exile she furthers by working in nearby Lake Placid, no longer allowed to drive a bus, nor given the opportunity to deliver the mail as she’d done every summer in the past. By August, when it’s time for the County Fair, she imagines that everyone has had time to compose their emotions about the children’s deaths, and will be able to let her settle back into the community. She and her husband are shunned by all whom they meet at the fair, and she is obliged to take her husband one step at a time up the grandstand bleachers for evening’s demolition derby. That is, until Billy Ansel, drunk, steps in to assist with the ascension. Through the course of the derby, in which her own old car, Boomer, is ganged up on by the other 15 cars in the arena, she learns from Ansel that the suit was dropped, and that it was Nichole’s testimony that drove Stephens away and collapsed all the other cases, as no one wanted to prosecute Dolores. She is made aware that the blame—72 mph—has been put on her. She accepts it. Boomer survives the demolition, at first reviled and abused, then gradually winning cheers as it bests one after another of the cars that sought first its destruction. Her husband and wheelchair are brought back down with the considerate, spontaneous help of men around her.

This is a well crafted story, with a narrative impetus that never diminishes, each section gracefully handing off the story and its themes from one to the other. What’s most impressive is that the design of the novel does not diminish by ostentation, but instead serves to tell an old fashioned story about people with real emotional depth. The novel’s epigraph—by Emily Dickinson, “‘Nothing’ is the force that renovates the world"—is a pure distillation of Banks' exploration of mortal and emotional loss, that from them are means to absolution, forgiveness, acceptance, and growth.
Greg Talbot
Trauma circles out in the "Sweet Hereafter" from a brutal bus accident that takes the lives of multiple children in the town, the survivors deal new traumas of physical impairments, disconnection from community and unreceeding guilt. Four different individuals, with vastly different motivations, share their story of how they got into the story, and what they are trying to get out of them. Luckily Banks goes deep into the characters, giving them distinctive personalities. We don't get cozy with t Trauma circles out in the "Sweet Hereafter" from a brutal bus accident that takes the lives of multiple children in the town, the survivors deal new traumas of physical impairments, disconnection from community and unreceeding guilt. Four different individuals, with vastly different motivations, share their story of how they got into the story, and what they are trying to get out of them. Luckily Banks goes deep into the characters, giving them distinctive personalities. We don't get cozy with the lawyer character, but his wandering daughter and distant family give us sympathy. The surviving bus victim Nichole deals with her depression and the abuse from her father, and when she does lie about some of the tragedy's details...we have some understaning of what she is trying to protect. Bank's book deals with difficult but real decisions people make about seraching for truth and searching for peace.

Thankfully easy to read...it's an emotionally very difficult book. At times it reminded of "The Chocolate War" about the corruptability of community, and Sam Shepard's "Burial Child" about the corruptability of family. Sometimes I wonder why people read books like this, but many of us need books like this. Grief is real, tragedy is real, and it's the books like "The Sweet Hereafter" that provide the difficult but necessary stories that keep us feeling, keep us from numbness.
Andrew
This title is a bit misleading. A bunch of kids die in a bus crash. Nothing sweet about it Russell!

This is why I started a change.org petition to retroactively change the title to “The Not So Sweet Hereafter” or possibly “The Sour Hereafter.” I have three signatures so far.

This book resonated with me quite a bit. I used to drive a school bus.

Okay, I lied. My neighbor did.

But while reading, I pictured Marilyn (I think that was her name) driving into a lake instead of Dolores. Seriously, what i This title is a bit misleading. A bunch of kids die in a bus crash. Nothing sweet about it Russell!

This is why I started a change.org petition to retroactively change the title to “The Not So Sweet Hereafter” or possibly “The Sour Hereafter.” I have three signatures so far.

This book resonated with me quite a bit. I used to drive a school bus.

Okay, I lied. My neighbor did.

But while reading, I pictured Marilyn (I think that was her name) driving into a lake instead of Dolores. Seriously, what if that happened to Marilyn (...or was her name Beth?)? That would be so sad.

For real, would she still show her face at the town’s demolition derby at the county fair every August?

Um. The book is pretty good. Though I don’t think the internal thoughts of the character’s are distinct enough. It didn’t seem he really got a handle on what a 14 year old girl would talk like. The pacing also feels off. It builds quite a bit of tension then it all suddenly goes away a bit too conveniently.

So buckle up and read this book. Or don’t. This is because the buckles may have killed some of the kids.
Chloe
Ultimately just not a book that really worked for me. It has some interesting ideas about guilt, grief, collective mourning, and the idea of who is responsible for (avoidable? unavoidable?) tragedies. But (view spoiler)[ the fact that Nichole, the final narrator, and a paralyzed victim of the crash, has been molested by her father for years & finally uses the crash & her newly paralyzed body to push back against her father's years of abuse by ruining his chances at becoming rich... I dun Ultimately just not a book that really worked for me. It has some interesting ideas about guilt, grief, collective mourning, and the idea of who is responsible for (avoidable? unavoidable?) tragedies. But (view spoiler)[ the fact that Nichole, the final narrator, and a paralyzed victim of the crash, has been molested by her father for years & finally uses the crash & her newly paralyzed body to push back against her father's years of abuse by ruining his chances at becoming rich... I dunno, it was kinda strange. I didn't see that plot twist coming, and although it's very much in line with the rest of the book's themes of the darkness lingering in small towns and families. (hide spoiler)] So, weird. Interesting ideas, but it didn't quite click with me.

I couldn't remember how I found this book, but I added it (along with a host of other books about death) on March 11, 2015, a day after Flavorwire posted "25 Essential Books About Death and Grief" - which sounds about right.
Kathleen Holt
I picked up this book because someone recommended the movie and I always feel like I should read the book first. It was a very interesting premise--a horrible tragedy in a small town--but the story is all about the aftermath of the tragedy and how the people of the town deal with it. I thought the writing was stellar, and captured the complexity of living in a small town where everyone knows everyone, but everyone also has their secrets. I was surprised to find that the setting is in Upstate New I picked up this book because someone recommended the movie and I always feel like I should read the book first. It was a very interesting premise--a horrible tragedy in a small town--but the story is all about the aftermath of the tragedy and how the people of the town deal with it. I thought the writing was stellar, and captured the complexity of living in a small town where everyone knows everyone, but everyone also has their secrets. I was surprised to find that the setting is in Upstate New York, which resonated with me since I grew up there. After researching the author, I also learned that he briefly attended Colgate University, my alma mater, which is also in Upstate. Everything manged to feel very familiar to me in this book, and I will likely read more Russell Banks books.
Deborah Sowery-Quinn
I have wanted to read this book for quite some time as I want to watch the movie (waiting on my DVR) but I didn't realize it was by Russell Banks, the author of one of my favourite books (Cloudsplitter). I knew the germ of the story, a terrible school bus accident in a small community with most of the children being killed. The novel is made up of a short number of chapters, that are mostly lengthy, & are each from the perspective of a different character - the bus driver, one of the parents I have wanted to read this book for quite some time as I want to watch the movie (waiting on my DVR) but I didn't realize it was by Russell Banks, the author of one of my favourite books (Cloudsplitter). I knew the germ of the story, a terrible school bus accident in a small community with most of the children being killed. The novel is made up of a short number of chapters, that are mostly lengthy, & are each from the perspective of a different character - the bus driver, one of the parents, a lawyer, one of the survivors, so all connected in one way or another. It is well done & I look forward to the book, although it may be harder to watch than read, given the subject matter, & I think I should read some more of Banks' novels.
Patrick Barry
Employing many narrative voices, this book describes the aftermath of a school bus accident in upstate New York that takes the lives of many of the town's children. The novel realistically hows the compounded disastrous effects on the lives of the families in the town. An out of town lawyer comes to town and convinces the town folk that they will receive closure if they enter into a class action lawsuit. The case hinges on one of the few survivors, a now paralyzed 14 year old girl. But for reaso Employing many narrative voices, this book describes the aftermath of a school bus accident in upstate New York that takes the lives of many of the town's children. The novel realistically hows the compounded disastrous effects on the lives of the families in the town. An out of town lawyer comes to town and convinces the town folk that they will receive closure if they enter into a class action lawsuit. The case hinges on one of the few survivors, a now paralyzed 14 year old girl. But for reasons of her own she thwarts the law suit by lying. Why???

A real good story, and I've read before writing this review inspired by an actual accident.
Clanza
Some of the anecdotes were compelling. I loved the section with Nichole and even Stephen (the lawyer). I hated the rambling of Dolores so much in the first section that I almost put the book down, but I’m glad I didn’t. Still, though I see why the style is as it is, and how it contributes to the theme, I found it discursive in many ways. The time jumps got me a bit, as did the fact that we learned about several characters in their one moment in time... and then that was it. It all seemed undevel Some of the anecdotes were compelling. I loved the section with Nichole and even Stephen (the lawyer). I hated the rambling of Dolores so much in the first section that I almost put the book down, but I’m glad I didn’t. Still, though I see why the style is as it is, and how it contributes to the theme, I found it discursive in many ways. The time jumps got me a bit, as did the fact that we learned about several characters in their one moment in time... and then that was it. It all seemed undeveloped. I enjoyed the book, mostly, but the lack of action and the seemingly static characters got to me. Just when I wanted to know more, nothing was added. I also need to think about the ending more.
Kerem
When I first started reading this book I didn't know where it was going. I thought it was just going to be about a lady, Dolores Driscoll, driving kids to school every day and being happy about it. But it wasn't like that. It was a very sad book because it all revolves around an accident. The storyline kept me interested and I really grew to love the characters. My favorite perspective was Billy Ansel; It was interesting to see things in his point of view. I do think it was a great book, but I l When I first started reading this book I didn't know where it was going. I thought it was just going to be about a lady, Dolores Driscoll, driving kids to school every day and being happy about it. But it wasn't like that. It was a very sad book because it all revolves around an accident. The storyline kept me interested and I really grew to love the characters. My favorite perspective was Billy Ansel; It was interesting to see things in his point of view. I do think it was a great book, but I liked it, I don't love it.
Dennis
Very well written. The characters definitely drove the plot. Some gaping holes though. For instance, Billy was right behind the bus during the accident, yet there's no detailed scene or summary of his rushing into the bus and attempting to save the kids inside--2 of whom were his own! I found that that being left out was unfair and very much in contrast with Billy's character if he indeed didn't run in and attempt rescues.
Mel
4.0***
An astonishingly well written book about a community dealing with loss and blame. I just completed another book written from the perspective of four narrators, so this was a timely read, a fantastically knitted storyline that it flowed evenly between Dolores, Billy, the lawyer and Nichole.
Elli Ebner
The book conveys volnerability, and written very well. How ever, i felt like the tragedy of 14(!) Children dying was too big, too horrific for the reader to really connect to the charachters. Enjoyable, not life changing, is how i would sum it. Good read for a sunday afternoon.
Sarah
I had high expectations going in, and this book fell just a little short of them. A bit too repetitive, didn't take its subject matter quite seriously enough, and there was some funky dialogue. Still, it wasn't at all a chore to read and there were some beautiful lines in it.
Deb Lundgren
Told from multiple characters' perspectives, a town is divided after a tragic accident. Banks is a master storyteller; each character is complex and multifaceted. The tale is an exploration of the meaning of tragedy, redemption, and survival.

I loved it.
Brett
i feel strangely apathetic about reviewing this book. Good story, interesting structure, the bus driver gets to chime in twice, not sure if there was a lesson we were supposed to learn but...whatever. Didn't rock my world but it was good and I always like (so far) the way Banks writes.
Sarah
I read this many years ago . . . maybe 20? But I thought it was amazing and it's stuck with me as amazing and moving.
Matt Savage
Poignant novel about what happens in a small town after tragedy occurs. Love how Banks has different narrators throughout the book.
Jan Kellis
Fabulous characters, lovely setting, great narration (by multiple characters). Very sad storyline, but it's well-told and hard to put down.
John Mulholland
Great story! it was interesting as most of the places he referred to I knew.
Patti
Not bad. Not my usual cup of tea, and it had one of my peeves in the plot, but it passed the time.
James
There's a set piece where a man has to give a tracheotomy that I still recall--even twenty years after finishing the book.
Little
Read on the recommendation of somebody I follow on Goodreads. Well written, and a bit surprising.
Brian
A beautiful and compelling novel about a tragedy in a small town. Truly amazing and highly recommend!
Mark Schloemer
4.5* Stunning; the book captured me, and I’m afraid it will never set me free again!
Larry Khazzam
Fabulous account of a terrible school bus accident. Each chapter is told from the point of view of a different character. Very original.
Nadisha
Given that this book was assigned as a weekend read by my law professor, I knew coming into the story that it was going to pose many legal and moral questions to its readers, but what I wasn't expecting was a truly dynamic story with noteworthy and introspective narratives and themes. Banks pulls us into the mind of the relevant individuals involved in the story's horrific accident and aftermath, and it was refreshing to see the raw emotions and thought process of each of them because they varie Given that this book was assigned as a weekend read by my law professor, I knew coming into the story that it was going to pose many legal and moral questions to its readers, but what I wasn't expecting was a truly dynamic story with noteworthy and introspective narratives and themes. Banks pulls us into the mind of the relevant individuals involved in the story's horrific accident and aftermath, and it was refreshing to see the raw emotions and thought process of each of them because they varied in such great lengths. On top of that, Banks wastes no time incorporating rather dark and/or adult elements into the story including sex, drugs, incest, alcoholism amidst the story's central and unavoidable element: death.

Furthermore, these dark and hidden stories are interlaced into the quiet nature of a small town, supposedly wracked by an awful tragedy but revealed to have harbored many small tragedies within itself already. Banks does a truly successful job at creating that sharp distinction between small-town life and the leech-like quality of city lawyers. Even the families of the lost children, although angry and seeking vengeance against anyone responsible for their children's deaths, are acting blindly out of their rage and sorrow and don't truly wish to disrupt the peace of the town. Nichole especially interested me, partly because the introduction of her affair with her father threw me off guard and partly because of her understanding that the situation had to and would be handled by her alone. It's a bit to wrap your head around because although she is considered a hero from keeping the town out of what would have been a chaotic spiral of law suites and bad blood, she had to do so through a lie by throwing Dolores Driscoll under the bus (no pun intended).

Dolores is also an intriguing figure, and I had to read the last chapter a couple of times to understand her calm. She presented brief insight on the bite of what Nichole's false testimony meant to her, but she also presented a rational understanding of its ultimate good, and I can't help but feel disconnected to that understanding. There's clearly a duality of reactions she's dealing with in response to the events, but like the rest of the town-members, she's ultimately willing to resign to the option that promises the least amount of conflict. As Banks said countless times (and probably to assure the readers so that when the end of this story comes, they're aware of this), no one in the town has any intention of suing Dolores and so even if that comes to be the only option, it won't be utilized because the power is in the people.

In retrospect, the story feels too put-together and wrapped up. All loose ends were tied and there's no real room for ambiguity, except perhaps in a reaction to the town's personality and Nichole, but it's an ultimately self-explanatory story.

That's not to say I didn't enjoy it, though I think I may have enjoyed the first 66 pages more than the remaining 184, but that was mostly due to sporadic notes of wisdom provided by the various narrators. For instance:

"...the talk of children can be very instructive. I guess it's because they play openly at what we grownups do seriously and in secret." (17)

"Nevertheless, we were both lonely and both burdened with strong sexual natures. But neither of us had the ability to say that to the other in a way that would not be hurtful. So, instead, we said 'I love you' and let it go at that." (41)

"Just as you might think my drinking is a way to numb the pain; it's not; it's a way to feel the pain." (44)

"It woke me up without scaring me. With marijuana, your inner life and outer life merge and comfort each other." (46)

I'll be curious to see how we discuss this in class, though I have a feeling our discussion may lie more in the morality of law and suites in situations such as this. As for the book, it's a quick and interesting story readable by anyone and worth having on your shelf. I only wish it had more of a kick in its ending, but I nevertheless appreciate it for the messages and tone it put forth. I'd be interested to see what other works Banks has published, as this story's elements and narratives suggest he could do rather well with a more introspective, analytical piece.
Daniel A.
There is a poignancy to The Sweet Hereafter, perhaps author Russell Banks' most recognized work, that somewhat defies terminology. While I was reading this book, two angry individuals bombed the Boston Marathon in my hometown, killing four (not including one of the alleged perpetrators) and injuring more than a hundred more. In that light, the premise of The Sweet Hereafter—when tragedy strikes, whom do you blame?—struck home perhaps more than it might for another reader.

In any event, The Sweet There is a poignancy to The Sweet Hereafter, perhaps author Russell Banks' most recognized work, that somewhat defies terminology. While I was reading this book, two angry individuals bombed the Boston Marathon in my hometown, killing four (not including one of the alleged perpetrators) and injuring more than a hundred more. In that light, the premise of The Sweet Hereafter—when tragedy strikes, whom do you blame?—struck home perhaps more than it might for another reader.

In any event, The Sweet Hereafter ought to be required reading for anyone considering a career in the law in general and litigation in particular; it's not every novel that is prefaced by praise from domestic-relations legal star Raoul Felder. Indeed, I originally read this book in my second or third year of college, circa 1995, when I was in pre-law and taking an introductory law course. Had I known then what I know now, with eleven years as a member of the bar under my belt, I might have appreciated The Sweet Hereafter on a different level.

Banks' novel discusses a tragic winter school-bus accident in rural upstate New York, in which most of one town's children are killed, and its aftermath. Told from the viewpoints of four actors in this business—Dolores Driscoll the bus driver, Billy Ansel the widowed father of dead twins, Mitchell Stephens the tort lawyer who involves himself in the case, and Nichole Burnell the teenage victim, paraplegic as a result of the accident—The Sweet Hereafter discusses difficult, possibly Hobson's choices. Everyone bears scars and burdens from the accident, and each narrator carries with him or her different degrees of likability throughout the whole ordeal. One cannot help but feel for Dolores, who drives a bus to support her beloved disabled husband and (view spoiler)[ends up taking the undeserved blame and communal opprobrium for causing the accident (hide spoiler)], and for Billy, who heretofore has been the town hero and who ultimately dies inside as a result of losing everyone in his family. Less sympathetic is Nichole, who (view spoiler)[perjuriously assigns blame for the accident to Dolores, so as to rob her father, who has been molesting her, of using her to benefit from the accident (hide spoiler)]—though one cannot help but feel for her overall plight. Least sympathetic of all is Attorney Stephens, who commits blatant ethical violation upon blatant ethical violation, and enacts cynical strategy after cynical strategy, to conform to his own pessimistic, perpetually angry worldview (view spoiler)[as a result of his perennially drug-addicted daughter's manipulations of him up to and including her testing positive for HIV (hide spoiler)]. In fact, my chief qualm with The Sweet Hereafter is Attorney Stephens; I genuinely shudder to think what the average reader thinks of lawyers after reading of his "exploits", as they are sure to dredge up the unfortunately sometimes-deserved stereotype of the tort lawyer as bottom-feeder, a stereotype I face with some regularity.

I cannot help but think, upon reading The Sweet Hereafter, of Anton Chekhov's famous statement (paraphrased here) that personal unhappiness takes myriad forms. Banks presents universal themes of alienation, guilt, retribution, justice, and morality, and offers many questions but few easy answers. Notably, I took nearly two months to read a novel of barely 250 pages. The Sweet Hereafter is dense reading, and the lack of simple solutions both confounds the reader's expectations and enhances his or her experience.
Spike Gomes
Thematically and plotwise, "The Sweet Hereafter" isn't all that bad. It dwells on the individual and communal repercussions of a tragic school bus accident in a small economically depressed town in upstate New York through the eyes of several characters. For a literary novel, it's written quite well, with lucid prose that written tightly, and includes some passages of starkly evocative emotional and physical descriptions. The characters and the town they inhabit are described in manner that is t Thematically and plotwise, "The Sweet Hereafter" isn't all that bad. It dwells on the individual and communal repercussions of a tragic school bus accident in a small economically depressed town in upstate New York through the eyes of several characters. For a literary novel, it's written quite well, with lucid prose that written tightly, and includes some passages of starkly evocative emotional and physical descriptions. The characters and the town they inhabit are described in manner that is true to life and not the least bit condescending or caricatured, which is often an issue I have with literary novels that depart from the cosmopolitan urban centers most writers dwell in. Looking up the author, it seems that Banks is writing from lived experience in this novel, coming from a rougher upbringing.

Still, something didn't sit quite right with me with this book, and by the time I got to the section where the narrator is a teenaged survivor of the accident, I was able to put my finger on it. While the actions and feelings of the first person narrators are realistic and each has their own unique voice, since it is a first person narrative, you expect a certain tenor to the voice. The problem is, that except for the lawyer, each one comes off far more sophisticated and self-aware than the character in question calls for. There's no way a fifty-something small town bus driver with a high school education would express her internal thoughts as: " The faint music of the merry-go-round mingling with the gravel-voiced calls and come-ons of the midway barkers was strangely sad to me; it was like the sound of childhood- mine, Nichol's, everyone's. Even Abbott's. Our childhoods that were gone forever but still calling mournfully back to us."

Don't get me wrong, the above line is a great one... for a third person narrative of the character's emotions. I'm not saying that the bus driver *couldn't* feel such an emotional state from her personal epiphany at the county fair. It's just likely, given her education and way of viewing the world she would say it in a far less literary manner. In the same way, the fourteen year old girl has piercing psychological insight into the adults around her far greater than even the smartest fourteen year old would have. In short, while escaping the pitfall of caricaturization of the characters, Banks moved too far in the other direction and made all the characters a bit too much like Russell Banks. Doing good first person narratives in literary fiction is a real tough tightrope to try to stay on, and I give him credit for doing it a lot better than other writers (I'm looking at you, Jonathan Safran Foer).

Despite that major problem, it's a readable and moving book worth looking at. 3 out of 5 stars.
Don LaFountaine
This was a pretty good book. It was written in the early 1990's, and given how much has changed in our society since then, it comes off a little quaint.

The basic story line is that there has been a bus accident in upstate New York that kills a number of children on their way to school. The story is told through:
1 - The bus driver Dolores: She was driving the bus on that winter morning. The reader goes along with her as she picks up each kid along the route. We learn she has been doing this for This was a pretty good book. It was written in the early 1990's, and given how much has changed in our society since then, it comes off a little quaint.

The basic story line is that there has been a bus accident in upstate New York that kills a number of children on their way to school. The story is told through:
1 - The bus driver Dolores: She was driving the bus on that winter morning. The reader goes along with her as she picks up each kid along the route. We learn she has been doing this for a very long time, and started with her own car.
2 - A parent, Billy Ansel: He had two children on the bus. A Vietnam vet who owns his own garage in town, part of his morning ritual was to follow the bus to school as he headed into work. He was behind the bus as the accident occurred.
3 - The city lawyer, Mitchell Stephens: Mitchell hears about the accident and comes to the town to get people together to sue someone for the accident. He believes that there is no such thing as an accident, and that there is always someone responsible for deaths such as these. Though he looks down on these people because they are not from the city, he tries his best to win a lawsuit for the town,(and collect 33% for himself). We also find out that he is estranged from his daughter, who contacts him with big news.
4 - One of the surviving children, Nichole Burnell: Nichole is one of the children who survived. Before the accident, she was the pretty cheerleader who babysat almost all of the town's children, and who had a huge future ahead of her. However she has a severe spine injury and is paralyzed and is confined to a wheelchair. Though she does not remember a large portion of the accident, she knows here life is irrevocably altered from this. People in the town act different towards her, and she is trying to figure out what to do about it. Along the way, she sees the town being torn apart by the lawsuits and decides to try to do something about it.

The final chapter is the town gathering at the last day of the fair for the demolition derby, as told by Doloros. Though not everything is resolved, it does conclude pretty well.

This is a pretty good book that reads pretty easily. I found it interesting to have this story told from four different angles, and though it starts rather slowly, I found myself enjoying the book more and more as I turned the pages. I think people who like tragic stories will like this, as well as young adults. It is a book I liked and enjoyed reading, but one that I will not be keeping for my personal library.
Rebecca
The Sweet Hereafter is the story of a school bus accident that killed several young children in a small town in upstate New York and the townspeople's reactions in the aftermath, as told from four different points of view: the bus driver, one of the parents who lost children in the accident, a lawyer trying to convince the parents to sue for damages, and one of the children who survived the crash but is now paralyzed.

Russell Banks' decision to tell the story this way gives unique insight into e The Sweet Hereafter is the story of a school bus accident that killed several young children in a small town in upstate New York and the townspeople's reactions in the aftermath, as told from four different points of view: the bus driver, one of the parents who lost children in the accident, a lawyer trying to convince the parents to sue for damages, and one of the children who survived the crash but is now paralyzed.

Russell Banks' decision to tell the story this way gives unique insight into each of the four characters' limited versions of the accident -- each version is no less true than the others, but none of them represents the whole truth. Parceling up blame isn't as easy as some people in the town seem to think it is, and Banks' choice to have four narrators instead of one allows the reader to see just how complex a tragedy can be. There is no clear culprit -- only many different victims with different portions of responsibility and injustice doled out to them. The lawyer firmly believes that "there's no such thing as an accident," that there is always someone somewhere who didn't do what they were supposed to do. But since the reader gets to see so many sides to the event, it's hard to resist coming to the conclusion that this was in fact just an accident.

Because it deals with a community torn apart by grief and retribution, you might think this is a dour, heavy, depressing book. In fact, though, despite being understandably melancholy in tone, The Sweet Hereafter isn't just about unmitigated misery. There is a charming, familiar quality to the way the four narrators tell their stories; a sort of trust and intimacy between them and the reader that makes you feel like you're listening to unique individuals talk about their lives spontaneously, rather than reading something that one man created and tweaked and changed over the course of many months. There's also redemption and catharsis at the end of the novel that allows the town to come to peace with what happened, even if their lives will never be the same.

Russell Banks' writing has many of the qualities I enjoy the most: his ideas are profound but the way he expresses them is completely down-to-earth and unpretentious; his characters have a believable mix of virtues and flaws; his storytelling carries a "message" without being preachy or overbearing. Most importantly to me, he uses words judiciously, not as though they are unlimited and cost nothing, but as though they are precious and expensive. Writing like that makes you listen.
Barbara Bryant
If you've seen a description of this book here, you already know the story, but I will avoid most spoilers. I could have and probably should have given this 4 stars (I am so stingy), but I am confounded by the fact that I happened to see the movie years ago before I knew there was a book, and I really loved the movie, which has a slightly different flavor, given the interpretation by the director, Atom Egoyan, and the actors, including the lovely young Sarah Polley and veteran Ian Holm. The rath If you've seen a description of this book here, you already know the story, but I will avoid most spoilers. I could have and probably should have given this 4 stars (I am so stingy), but I am confounded by the fact that I happened to see the movie years ago before I knew there was a book, and I really loved the movie, which has a slightly different flavor, given the interpretation by the director, Atom Egoyan, and the actors, including the lovely young Sarah Polley and veteran Ian Holm. The rather mesmerizing feel of the movie outshone the book for me, but I doubt I would have felt the same way if I had read the book first. You know how that goes.

The novel concerns a tragedy and its aftermath in upper New York state, in the oddly-named town of Sam Dent, and is narrated by four of its characters: Dolores, a strong woman and experienced school bus driver; Billy Ansel, the still-young figurehead of splendid manhood in the town--a former sports star, veteran and bereaved father of two; Mitchell Stephens, a New York lawyer who brings promises and problems to the townspeople and who has one severe problem of his own; and Nichole Burnell, a survivor of not one but two tragedies who directs her own life and the outcome of both tragedies.

The small town is beautifully captured in the novel, as is the winter atmosphere as it moves through to the last days of summer. The townspeople are not people who jump to blame or turn from their friends in the swirl of the aftermath, but stressors from elsewhere, especially lawyers, bring other issues to bear, and if the town has nice people it also has dirt-poor people who could use a leg up financially.

Nichole was for me the main character, with Dolores, though in the movie I don't remember having feelings for Dolores, as I do in the book. Nichole, a nearly perfect teenager in this small town, shines for her family, her friends, her teachers and even strangers until something happens to change her feelings about herself and her place in the world. She is given a decision to make that will drive how the story will proceed, and she steps up with steely confidence to stamp FIN on the novel, and bring closure, just as the story ends with the waning hours of the summer fair, ferris wheel lights blurring as the summer ends. It is very hard to talk about the book without telling the story but do yourself a favor and read the book first, then see the movie. Both are worth it.

Amanda
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 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.
Dave
As a first Russell Banks vehicle for me, I was particularly disturbed by the reality of the story line. I remember some years back, not far from my community, a school bus accident that took the lives of school children, and how devastating it was. Innocence cut short makes for a harrowing tale of how temporary our stay may be and how the indiscriminate spectre of death lurks. Set in a small town in the hilly northern reaches of New York state, a fraction of a moment becomes the period punctuati As a first Russell Banks vehicle for me, I was particularly disturbed by the reality of the story line. I remember some years back, not far from my community, a school bus accident that took the lives of school children, and how devastating it was. Innocence cut short makes for a harrowing tale of how temporary our stay may be and how the indiscriminate spectre of death lurks. Set in a small town in the hilly northern reaches of New York state, a fraction of a moment becomes the period punctuation of the lives of the townsfolk and the epilogue thenceforward. Reading George Martin's Game of Thrones epics introduced me to chapters named after the character in which the ensuing prose surrounds. Banks does the same, but as a running interior monologue with a story told in essentially four parts: the perspective of the unfortunate bus driver (who also narrates the last chapter to bring the story full circle to its denouement), the war vet townie who witnesses the accident, the big city lawyer who descends upon the town looking to litigate, and a surviving child stricken with the sad, tragic life of a victim even before the vehicular tragedy occurs. I felt nothing but pity for most, if not all of these characters. Even the secondary characters were rife with pain. And although this book was written well as a portrait of a small town in disarray over an unfortunate event, I found it far too depressing for this particular moment of my life. It's the dead of one of the most miserable winters in recent memory. I should have been more meticulous with my choice and chosen this after a series of Dr. Seuss books or something.
Laura Avellaneda-Cruz
This was a perfect bedtime story, which is what I needed at the time I began it. Although very sad, it was beautiful enough (in a very plain, simple way, much like the plainness of the town), intriguing enough, and calm enough to put characters into my head that I could think of rather than thinking of my own life & all the things I have left to do, which helps to lull me to sleep each night. And interesting characters they were, each with their own compelling and very human story. I was par This was a perfect bedtime story, which is what I needed at the time I began it. Although very sad, it was beautiful enough (in a very plain, simple way, much like the plainness of the town), intriguing enough, and calm enough to put characters into my head that I could think of rather than thinking of my own life & all the things I have left to do, which helps to lull me to sleep each night. And interesting characters they were, each with their own compelling and very human story. I was particularly attached to the character of the lawyer (which is why, I imagine, the director of the film focused on him), but also very moved by the story of how the 14-year-old girl makes sense of her sexual abuse/incest and her agency/power. It was well-told and insightful.

Still, I walk away not quite sure what I get from the book. People need children, a village needs its children. Yes. I hear you on that, Russell Banks. But something else? Perhaps I am not meant to walk away with more, but I am used to finishing a book and taking some clear new energy or insight into the world. I am not sure that I did with this one, except maybe some new and useful insight into how people approach coping and grief in incredibly different ways that all make some sense, and that it is imperative upon me as a social worker to understand the logic of each person's approach to grief, loss, victimization, etc. I think it is meant to simply put us in people's shoes as they deal with the aftermath, and may not be meant to teach any larger lessons. And perhaps it is meant to serve, as well it did for me, as a sad and calm bedtime story.
Cathy Austin
Remarkable book, one that is even better if read at one sitting. Not an easy read. A school bus crashes in upper reaches of Lake Placid. Children are dead. Others survive but the town of Sam Dent, its residents, its families, its very core is shattered. Story is told clearly and concisely by four people, four perspectives: the before the crash, briefly during and the long aftermath, the sorrow, the pain, the lawsuits, the backstories. The need to assign blame, on something, someone, whatever. It Remarkable book, one that is even better if read at one sitting. Not an easy read. A school bus crashes in upper reaches of Lake Placid. Children are dead. Others survive but the town of Sam Dent, its residents, its families, its very core is shattered. Story is told clearly and concisely by four people, four perspectives: the before the crash, briefly during and the long aftermath, the sorrow, the pain, the lawsuits, the backstories. The need to assign blame, on something, someone, whatever. It is moving, to say the very least. The writing is precise, spot-on and the characters are real, people you can easily envision, people you most likely have known, who may even be like your own neighbours. Russell Banks' story was made into a film by Toronto film maker Atom Egoyan a few years back, an equally moving movie. I dog eared several pages on my own copy, passages were so exquisite: "I remember that night and standing there beside our bed and holding up my wife's articles of clothing...when someone you love has died, you tend to recall best those few moments and incidents that helped to clarify your sense, not of the person who has died, but of your own self." Description of the setting, the huge forested Andirondack Park area is exactly right: I have seen it and it is vast, trees, forests, dense and a world apart. Winding roads high above the rest of the state. The people in The Sweet Hereafter are richly drawn, like Billy, Delores and Mr. Stephens, each with a particular pain in their lives. And Nichole, the young girl who changes the whole storyline. A beautiful read and one I would read again.
Philip Alexander
One of the most memorable novels I've read. The story of a small, close-knit, upstate New York town, struggling with the tragedy and aftermath of the deaths of fourteen children in school bus accident. Banks uses a four person narrative and alternates them with perfect balance. We learn of the accident --and the grief and complications it has wrought--through the school bus driver, a devastated parent, a calculating lawyer (anticipating huge insurance settlements), and one of the crash survivors One of the most memorable novels I've read. The story of a small, close-knit, upstate New York town, struggling with the tragedy and aftermath of the deaths of fourteen children in school bus accident. Banks uses a four person narrative and alternates them with perfect balance. We learn of the accident --and the grief and complications it has wrought--through the school bus driver, a devastated parent, a calculating lawyer (anticipating huge insurance settlements), and one of the crash survivors, now partially paralyzed. The film received high praise, and it has frequently been suggested that the movie was 'better' than the book. One argument for the film's superiority is that the novel is too plainspoken, austere, and direct. I find this assertion confounding. The skill, (rugged) beauty and literary achievement of the novel lies precisely in its spare and plainspoken telling. Bank's direct prose is genuine, and true to the inhabitants of the small town where the story is set. The writing is reminiscent of Carver, or even James M Cain. There is definitely a hardboiled element to it. And yet Bank's tackles a complicated and multi-layered story, with tremendous attention to detail, sharp wit and incredible pathos, while remaining crisp and precise in his delivery. The only reason for the reader to flip back the pages and reread, is to admire the deceptively simply delivery of this intricate story. The Sweet Hereafter is a masterpiece of restraint,a haunting and meaningful a novel, worthy of two or three reads.
Misty
I feel like I've found my new favorite author and that I must read all his books. The subject matter of this book, a school bus crash that kills many of a small town's children, isn't for the faint of heart. There are no easy answers, no heroes, and no villains (well except one). It's hard to say what this book is even really about.

I'll put down here for future reference that there are three passages I like a lot, on pages 99, 237, and 254. And they also sum up the themes of the book well. What I feel like I've found my new favorite author and that I must read all his books. The subject matter of this book, a school bus crash that kills many of a small town's children, isn't for the faint of heart. There are no easy answers, no heroes, and no villains (well except one). It's hard to say what this book is even really about.

I'll put down here for future reference that there are three passages I like a lot, on pages 99, 237, and 254. And they also sum up the themes of the book well. What does this tragedy say about childhood, the loss of innocence, and the role of children in our society? This book is described as a "small town morality play," whereby the town's citizens have to face up to their moral shortcomings, but I think it's saying a lot more than that. It's hard not to compare it to the movie, which Banks says is an improvement over the book. I agree, which is why I can't quite give it five stars.

And the writing. The writing is wonderful. It just flows, explaining how I was able to read it and devour it in such a short amount of time. These characters -- each different from one another -- feel true and lived in, and their internal dialogue expands beyond their individual experience and says something about the questions we have every day about life and our quest for meaning.

So read this book especially if you're in a questioning phase of your life, one where there are no easy answers but where we muddle forward to some truth. My favorite types of books.
Mary the Library Dweller
To be quite honest, I only read this book because it was assigned in class. This isn't the kind of story I like to read. However, I read it so I'll review it.

This is about a school bus crash where a bunch of kids die. Actually, a more accurate description would be that this is how a town reacts to the death of its children.

It's really sad, which is a given considering the subject material. Sometimes though I think the author pushed a bit too hard to make it sad.

Each chapter is from the point To be quite honest, I only read this book because it was assigned in class. This isn't the kind of story I like to read. However, I read it so I'll review it.

This is about a school bus crash where a bunch of kids die. Actually, a more accurate description would be that this is how a town reacts to the death of its children.

It's really sad, which is a given considering the subject material. Sometimes though I think the author pushed a bit too hard to make it sad.

Each chapter is from the point of view of different characters. This includes the bus driver, one of the parents of the dead kids, a lawyer trying to get people to sue the town while dealing with own "lost" child, and one of the survivors from the crash.

The story is believable, I'll give it that. Well, believable except for a couple of moments. There was one point where the lawyer is talking to his daughter and I felt the dialogue in that scene was over the top and contrived. The second is in the chapter on one of the survivors. There is something that happened to her and the way it was dealt with just didn't seem realistic to me.

However, I can believe that these are people of the same town and that this is how they choose to deal with their grief.

I'm not sure if I would recommend this or not. If it sounds like your kind of story, then you'll probably enjoy it. However, if you're looking to diversify your interests in books then I wouldn't start with this book.
Philip
This was a really excellent book, but SO DEPRESSING! I cannot imagine a more perfect storm of misery, as a parent, child or former Upstate New Yorker. The whole book revolves around a fatal school bus crash - already bad enough - but also touches on incest, drug-addicted runaways, stroke victims, alcoholism, etc. So not a light read, but a rewarding one in terms of memorable, well-defined characters and original structure.

This was a book Will was assigned to read in high school (!), so just pick This was a really excellent book, but SO DEPRESSING! I cannot imagine a more perfect storm of misery, as a parent, child or former Upstate New Yorker. The whole book revolves around a fatal school bus crash - already bad enough - but also touches on incest, drug-addicted runaways, stroke victims, alcoholism, etc. So not a light read, but a rewarding one in terms of memorable, well-defined characters and original structure.

This was a book Will was assigned to read in high school (!), so just picked it up to see what kids were being assigned these days. Somehow I thought there would be Native Americans in there somewhere - but guess I was thinking of Russell Means instead of Russell Banks. Turns out Banks also wrote Affliction, which was made into an even more depressing movie starring Nick Nolte and James Coburn - glad I didn't realize this earlier, or I probably would have given this a pass.

I did enjoy the setting. While "Sam Dent" is a fictional town, it's right next to Lake Placid where I was born (but left when I was five), so was fun to see such familiar names as Plattsburgh, Saranac Lake, Whiteface Mountain and the Ausable River - but that's about where the "fun" and "enjoy" ended. Still, brilliant, touching writing and so I may look for more Banks again in the future, (after a long stretch of more cheerful fare).
Casey
This was a selection for my book discussion group, and I probably would never have read it otherwise. The story unravels from 4 differeent points of view, which is a writing style that I happen to like. Unfortunately all four voices sounded the same to me, as if, if they were talking they would have shared inflection, pauses, and pacing. I suppose that would have been ok, except that the characters are 2 adult males, 1 adult woman, and 1 teen girl, I can't believe they would all speak the same, This was a selection for my book discussion group, and I probably would never have read it otherwise. The story unravels from 4 differeent points of view, which is a writing style that I happen to like. Unfortunately all four voices sounded the same to me, as if, if they were talking they would have shared inflection, pauses, and pacing. I suppose that would have been ok, except that the characters are 2 adult males, 1 adult woman, and 1 teen girl, I can't believe they would all speak the same, so why do they read so close to the same?
The story is what it is, and all that's left is the guilt, and believe all of these characters has some kind of guilt going on.
I practically read the book all the way through since there were no decent stopping places outside of the chapter breaks, but I found the chapters to be long.
A story full of guild and sadness...fun read. However I am still pondering the end. What did it mean? I guess it could mean any number of things, so I need to decide for me, which it was.
I didn't realize there was a movie of this book, and I don't think I would want to see it, the book was good enough, and I can't see how it would successfully translate to a movie.
Lynn
This was a sly one. I couldn't figure out what the book group was going to discuss, but then it sneaked up on me. I suddenly realized, about 2/3 of the way through, that the characters were really multi-faceted and faced such interesting moral issues.

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 This was a sly one. I couldn't figure out what the book group was going to discuss, but then it sneaked up on me. I suddenly realized, about 2/3 of the way through, that the characters were really multi-faceted and faced such interesting moral issues.

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 much more complex than I'd thought. I thought I knew who the good guys were, but then I realized there was more there there. I belatedly recognized that everyone had motives and motivations, and everyone confronted devastating loss so differently. All of the characters were permanently changed, and rightly so.

I wondered a bit about the demolition derby at the end, though. It was like the car was a sin-eater, and that suddenly the townsfolk could move on. I wasn't entirely convinced, and it seemed a bit too pat, but hey, we have to end somewhere. That said, we did get a hint of what the future of these characters might be like as a result of the tragedy. Grim, but I'd read more by this writer.
Jamie
I would have given this book 3.5 stars if that was an option. I read this book rather quickly, partially because i found the idea for the plot gripping and partially because Russell Banks writes in such a unique style; the book was hard to put down. I really wanted to reach the end to see where the book was going, and unfortunately, I feel it never quite got there. The book is told from four different people's perspectives, and I really enjoyed seeing the tragedy from all different angles. Still I would have given this book 3.5 stars if that was an option. I read this book rather quickly, partially because i found the idea for the plot gripping and partially because Russell Banks writes in such a unique style; the book was hard to put down. I really wanted to reach the end to see where the book was going, and unfortunately, I feel it never quite got there. The book is told from four different people's perspectives, and I really enjoyed seeing the tragedy from all different angles. Still, I feel that the author could have delved deeper into the issue. It's a sad story, but all the same, I never really connected with any one of the characters. The reader gets insight into the narrators' lives while reading their perspective, but the reader is not really given the chance to connect with the characters. I liked the book, but I think considering the potential I thought this book could have, I don't think it quite reached it. Some say the movie is better than the book, which is alwasy tough to accomplish for a director, no matter how good/bad the books is, so I am looking forward to renting it.
Tom Torkelson
This was the second book I've read by the Author, the first being Lost Memory of Skin. Though quite different subject matter, they both take the reader straight into the soul of a damaged person, or in the case of this book, 4 damaged persons.
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 This was the second book I've read by the Author, the first being Lost Memory of Skin. Though quite different subject matter, they both take the reader straight into the soul of a damaged person, or in the case of this book, 4 damaged persons.
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 back on my To-Read-List.
I'm looking forward to reading more Russel Banks. Any suggestions from fans of his would be appreciated.
Steve Duong
Russell Banks brings forth a town struggling to pick up the pieces of their former lives after a fatal school bus accident involving 14 students forces them to deal with the aftermath. The story itself was very satisfying, I loved Stephen Esquire's perspective brought into the whole mix, I didn't enjoy his character as much but I loved reading his court-savvy, sleuthing detective files. Reading the book felt like taking a magnifying glass and focusing a beam of bright summer solar light right in Russell Banks brings forth a town struggling to pick up the pieces of their former lives after a fatal school bus accident involving 14 students forces them to deal with the aftermath. The story itself was very satisfying, I loved Stephen Esquire's perspective brought into the whole mix, I didn't enjoy his character as much but I loved reading his court-savvy, sleuthing detective files. Reading the book felt like taking a magnifying glass and focusing a beam of bright summer solar light right into your heart. Some of the content was hard to swallow, not about the actual accident but the way some people reacted. Russel Banks creates 4 very strong individuals that have to survive the horror story and each character helps to shape the town that harbored the accident. They all come together to create a very satisfying group dynamic that questions the town's moral integrity. I think the story was pretty ambitious in its own and the four narratives really gave perspective to the whole book. The emotions exhibited were a raw and understated account of suspended depression. It was beautiful in every single way.
Victoria
the book was $1.00 at the thrift store, and so last saturday I bought it. I read it quickly, not in the way that you read a guilty pleasure or a mystery, but in the way that you read a story that is told in a spare and urgent style. i mentioned to someone i was reading it, and they complained they would not be able to read the book after seeing the movie.

however, i found the two to be complementary, although I think the book is far superior to the movie. By reading the characters' words, each p the book was $1.00 at the thrift store, and so last saturday I bought it. I read it quickly, not in the way that you read a guilty pleasure or a mystery, but in the way that you read a story that is told in a spare and urgent style. i mentioned to someone i was reading it, and they complained they would not be able to read the book after seeing the movie.

however, i found the two to be complementary, although I think the book is far superior to the movie. By reading the characters' words, each primary character receiving their own section told in the first person, the reader comes to know and understand them; unlike the movie, which only torturously suggests their motivations and perceptions. the landscape of the town--towering mountains, bleak winter parking lots, and the yellow of the bus against the snow--plays as large a role in the book as in the movie, and the movie's powerful visual depiction of that landscape, which I remember despite having seen the film some time ago, enhanced my experience of the book without overpowering it. blah. it was good, you should read it. the end.
Abbie
Basically flawless - my only complaints are that it was too short and not NEARLY sad enough.

But I mean, this book is utterly convincing. It switches point of views, but each is so distinct and important that you can't help being happy about it.

I have to say though, the only character who I *really* liked was Nichole. I liked Billy through other people's views but not through his own. I went back and forth on Mitch. But that's the genius of this book, you see. The POVS truly have a function - yo Basically flawless - my only complaints are that it was too short and not NEARLY sad enough.

But I mean, this book is utterly convincing. It switches point of views, but each is so distinct and important that you can't help being happy about it.

I have to say though, the only character who I *really* liked was Nichole. I liked Billy through other people's views but not through his own. I went back and forth on Mitch. But that's the genius of this book, you see. The POVS truly have a function - you get to see everyone in so many lights.

I thought the tragedy could have been dwelled on a bit more, or more of the parents could have been focused on. Because honestly, as a reader, I felt very far away about what had happened, and it didn't affect me at all. The lawsuit rather than the grief is the focus, but not in the interesting Jodie Picoult way, either.

Still, the writing and authenticity of the voices were pristine enough to earn this the four stars. I think if it had perhaps been a bit longer, squeezed in a few more points of view, the rest would have worked better. But as it was it was realistic and, in its own way, suspenseful.
Erin
A tragic bus accident in a small rural town claims the lives of 14 children and, for all intents and purposes, the lives of those who loved them. I wish I could say the honest voices of Banks' characters, through whom the story is told, were a stretch of the imagination, complete misrepresentations of perfect people, but they weren't. The good-intentioned, muddling Dolores Driscoll; the bitter and ruined Billy Ansel, a Vietnam veteran and father of two of the 14 children killed that awful day; a A tragic bus accident in a small rural town claims the lives of 14 children and, for all intents and purposes, the lives of those who loved them. I wish I could say the honest voices of Banks' characters, through whom the story is told, were a stretch of the imagination, complete misrepresentations of perfect people, but they weren't. The good-intentioned, muddling Dolores Driscoll; the bitter and ruined Billy Ansel, a Vietnam veteran and father of two of the 14 children killed that awful day; and the greedy Mitchell Stephens, who does a good job convincing himself that he's not (no, he's "anger driven"), are all truthfully flawed creatures -- average men and women. And so is Nicole Brunell, the wheelchair-bound girl whose picture-perfect life is as lost to her as her ability to walk.

This book really caught me off guard -- Russell Bank's writing is quiet but powerful, a combination not many authors manage to pull off without coming across as preachy.

Although I felt sorry for some characters more than others, I respected them all (yes, even Stephens). I've never respected all the characters of a book before. It's a good feeling.
Mom
A terrible school bus accident in a small town, 14 children killed, many seriously injured . What is the aftermath?

Russell Banks tells the story from 4 perspectives: Delores, the bus driver; Billy Ansel, a widower, who loses his only children in the crash; Mr. Stephens, the big city lawyer who plans to bring a negligence suit against the city and the state; and teenaged Nichole, a cheerleader who is paralyzed in the accident. Russell Banks writes with restraint and incredible empathy such that w A terrible school bus accident in a small town, 14 children killed, many seriously injured . What is the aftermath?

Russell Banks tells the story from 4 perspectives: Delores, the bus driver; Billy Ansel, a widower, who loses his only children in the crash; Mr. Stephens, the big city lawyer who plans to bring a negligence suit against the city and the state; and teenaged Nichole, a cheerleader who is paralyzed in the accident. Russell Banks writes with restraint and incredible empathy such that we understand each of the characters and empathize with them. Interestingly, I was especially intrigued by the ambulance-chasing lawyer (not usually my favorite occupation).

The concluding scene is at the demolition derby, a fine symbol of what happens to the town and the people in it. Not exactly heart-breaking, the novel explores a group of tragic characters suspended in "the sweet hereafter" and hints that perhaps some good will come -- perhaps. A book that inspires a lot of deep thought.
Ptreick
3.5 stars.

This has been on my reading list forever, and it finally worked its way to the top.

In this story, where a school bus accident takes the lives of most of a small town's children, the narrative is divided between the bus driver, a father who lost two children, a lawyer bent on a wrongful death suit, and a paralyzed teenager survivor. I know exactly why I was drawn to this book, despite a dark theme: I loved Spoon River Anthology by Edgar Lee Masters many years ago, and I'm always looking 3.5 stars.

This has been on my reading list forever, and it finally worked its way to the top.

In this story, where a school bus accident takes the lives of most of a small town's children, the narrative is divided between the bus driver, a father who lost two children, a lawyer bent on a wrongful death suit, and a paralyzed teenager survivor. I know exactly why I was drawn to this book, despite a dark theme: I loved Spoon River Anthology by Edgar Lee Masters many years ago, and I'm always looking for something in that vein.

Banks does the small town well, and his characters are eminently human and flawed. The passages where the reader is inside each narrator's head felt too long, however--their stories bordering on repetitive. I was grateful that there was no easy answer, no mass healing for everyone affected. What the characters are left with at the end is a complicated, new sort of truth--one they never would have accepted at the beginning. And that felt--to this reader--fair.

Lorraine
I have to say I enjoyed the first half of this book more than the second half. I really liked the narrative switch from the bus driver to the Billy Ansel character, the way the latter picked up the plot from roughly the same spot but from his own perspective, putting a new spin on the people of the town and the events. However, I was disappointed with subsequent narrative shifts because the latter narrators back-tracked a bit. Also, the "new spin" was lacking in those characters; they just gave I have to say I enjoyed the first half of this book more than the second half. I really liked the narrative switch from the bus driver to the Billy Ansel character, the way the latter picked up the plot from roughly the same spot but from his own perspective, putting a new spin on the people of the town and the events. However, I was disappointed with subsequent narrative shifts because the latter narrators back-tracked a bit. Also, the "new spin" was lacking in those characters; they just gave a differing perspective, not really one that shone new light on the situation or people so much. Also, some of the minor storylines sort of get dropped when Nicholle takes narration, which (I feel) disjoints the novel. And in general the story gets a bit boring towards the latter half.

But the content, the aftermath of a school bus accident that kills so many young children, is an interesting topic that is not used in many novels. If you have young children or recently lost a loved one to an auto accident, you may not be interested in this book, however.
Kristi
I've read two other Russell Banks novels and I think "The Sweet Hereafter" is by far the best: the title piqued my curiosity and the book did not disappoint.

The story is a narrative of a small town fatal school bus accident told from the perspective of several survivors: the local, grand-motherly bus driver and the well-liked, pretty teenager-- as well as a parent who witnessed the accident and lost his twins in it. Included in the perspective is a big city lawyer intent on winning a lawsuit fil I've read two other Russell Banks novels and I think "The Sweet Hereafter" is by far the best: the title piqued my curiosity and the book did not disappoint.

The story is a narrative of a small town fatal school bus accident told from the perspective of several survivors: the local, grand-motherly bus driver and the well-liked, pretty teenager-- as well as a parent who witnessed the accident and lost his twins in it. Included in the perspective is a big city lawyer intent on winning a lawsuit filed on the behalf of the families of the deceased or injured children.

Banks grabs the reader's attention from the first paragraph with the bus driver's account of the accident as it's happening and the tragic aftermath.
The book becomes the story of how traumatic loss (and there are many different kinds) affect each of the surviving characters' truths, thoughts, emotions and realities after the accident. Do circumstances control their personal outcomes or do they?

Are their "Hereafters" bitter or are they sweet?
LindaJ^
Short but not sweet, this is the sad tale of what happens to a community after many of its children are killed in a school bus accident. There are four narrators who alternate in telling the story.

Delores was driving the bus, something she'd done forever. Through her we learn about the children on the bus and their parents, as well as her invalid husband.

Billy, a Vietnam vet and a widower with two children on the bus, always drove behind the bus and waved to his kids. Through him we learn abou Short but not sweet, this is the sad tale of what happens to a community after many of its children are killed in a school bus accident. There are four narrators who alternate in telling the story.

Delores was driving the bus, something she'd done forever. Through her we learn about the children on the bus and their parents, as well as her invalid husband.

Billy, a Vietnam vet and a widower with two children on the bus, always drove behind the bus and waved to his kids. Through him we learn about his affair with another parent, married to a friend, and about how his wife died.

Mitchel is the big city lawyer come to inflict justice. He is dealing with his wayward daughter and her latest bombshell.

Nichole survived but is paralyzed. She was homecoming queeen, cheerleader, and is smart. She was also abused. Nichole tells mostly her own story - true and false.

There is a lot of packed into this short but powerful novel. There are many moral issues with no black or white answers and lots of pain. It is well worth the read.
Caroline Bell
This book was excellent. It tells the story of a small town in upstate New York, nearly Canada, and the bus accident that leaves 14 local children dead. The chapters are told from the point of view of the bus driver, the father of a set of twins, both of whom died in the crash, an NYC lawyer who arrives on the scene to try to sue the state on behalf of the victims, and an eighth-grade survivor who ends up wheelchair bound. The narration does not disappoint, without being too graphic or provocati This book was excellent. It tells the story of a small town in upstate New York, nearly Canada, and the bus accident that leaves 14 local children dead. The chapters are told from the point of view of the bus driver, the father of a set of twins, both of whom died in the crash, an NYC lawyer who arrives on the scene to try to sue the state on behalf of the victims, and an eighth-grade survivor who ends up wheelchair bound. The narration does not disappoint, without being too graphic or provocative. The characters are well-developed and their emotions resonated with me. It was interesting to see how they are all feeling many of the same things (loss, guilt, anger, fear, confusion), despite their different outcomes and roles in the accident. The questions of whether it was anyone's fault and how people can "get over" something like this are grappled with throughout.

The ending chapter/scene is one of the best conclusions to a book that I have read. The demolition derby as a microcosm for the town post-accident was incredibly well done.

A must-read.
Kaitlin
If you are impatient, don't read this book. I was pretty bored for the first 80 pages. Somewhere in the middle, though, I got hooked and needed to know the fate of this town and how folks would recover from a fatal school bus accident.

The multiple narrators made me cranky at first. Seriously, bus driver, I don't need to know the exact surface area of everyone's front porch. I get it, lawyer, you are a rage-driven superhero. But then Banks introduced a teenager who survived the accident but was If you are impatient, don't read this book. I was pretty bored for the first 80 pages. Somewhere in the middle, though, I got hooked and needed to know the fate of this town and how folks would recover from a fatal school bus accident.

The multiple narrators made me cranky at first. Seriously, bus driver, I don't need to know the exact surface area of everyone's front porch. I get it, lawyer, you are a rage-driven superhero. But then Banks introduced a teenager who survived the accident but was permanently crippled. I loved her voice, and she added a twist to make the story interesting. I then grew to like the annoying lawyer and sentimental bus driver and actually had feelings for the town, which is what Banks was getting at from the beginning.

Banks writes about weird things, and that's why I like him. There's just always a little something missing. I plan to read a couple more of his books; maybe what's missing has something to do with me and I'll get it more as I keep reading him.
David
(Somehow this was posted under "The Sheltering Sky" because I was probably drunk when I finished reading The Sweet Hereafter)

There was something a little "saucy" about this particular fiction that allowed me to stick with it during a time where I had absolutely zero time to actually read anything. Every one of the main characters -- the book is structured as 5 chapters written from 4 perspectives surrounding a horrifying school-bus accident and its aftermath -- has a little something *extra* in (Somehow this was posted under "The Sheltering Sky" because I was probably drunk when I finished reading The Sweet Hereafter)

There was something a little "saucy" about this particular fiction that allowed me to stick with it during a time where I had absolutely zero time to actually read anything. Every one of the main characters -- the book is structured as 5 chapters written from 4 perspectives surrounding a horrifying school-bus accident and its aftermath -- has a little something *extra* in their backstory that carefully walks the line between hokey melodrama and thoughtful texture. At the moment, I'm leaning heavily towards the latter. When the young, smart, beautiful, newly crippled cheerleader (who sounds suspiciously, in writing, like the other 3 non-young, non-cheerleader characters) reveals passively that her Daddy sexually abused her, I did a head-spinning double-take. But I also sat, engrossed, and finished the chapter in a sitting.

Great descriptions of the setting and scene -- I could practically smell upstate New York emanating from my iPad.
Richard Kramer
I said 2011 was going to be the year I read Russell Banks. Well, sue me, it's 2012,
I have a lot on my mind. But get to him I did, all right, first with LOST MEMORY OF SKIN
(see under separate heading) and then this small masterpiece of empathy, about the aftermath -- a not so sweet hereafter -- of a school bus's crash on a snowy upstate New York road. "A town that loses its children loses its meaning," he writes, an unusually original and poetic thesis that he dramatizes in several very different I said 2011 was going to be the year I read Russell Banks. Well, sue me, it's 2012,
I have a lot on my mind. But get to him I did, all right, first with LOST MEMORY OF SKIN
(see under separate heading) and then this small masterpiece of empathy, about the aftermath -- a not so sweet hereafter -- of a school bus's crash on a snowy upstate New York road. "A town that loses its children loses its meaning," he writes, an unusually original and poetic thesis that he dramatizes in several very different first person voices of some of those affected by the accident. The idea Banks works out keeps growing, and flowering, even as he stays within the confines of a well-plotted and compelling story, becoming almost bigger than you know without once hitting a truism about grief or mourning. It's only once you're through the book, through its swift 250 pages, that you realize that Banks has written something enormous.
Tejas Janet
My mixed reactions to this novel made rating it a challenge. This fairly well-crafted novel is tightly constructed, and written in mostly admirable prose. These are all characteristics that would normally prompt me to give this book a rating above 3 stars. However, the various narrative voices came across as inauthentic to me, and I also disliked the negativity and mean-spiritedness that permeated every pore of this novel, beginning to end. I couldn't help but come away with an impression of the My mixed reactions to this novel made rating it a challenge. This fairly well-crafted novel is tightly constructed, and written in mostly admirable prose. These are all characteristics that would normally prompt me to give this book a rating above 3 stars. However, the various narrative voices came across as inauthentic to me, and I also disliked the negativity and mean-spiritedness that permeated every pore of this novel, beginning to end. I couldn't help but come away with an impression of the author as a jaded, embittered soul, who wanted nothing better than to spread his poisonous point of view until there was nothing joyful or sincere remaining. Then again, I also seem to be acknowledging by this that the book holds some power. At any rate, I was glad to be done with it so I can move on to other things that I find of greater value.

Rebecca
Oh the joys of perusing an independent book store and picking up a book by a local author and buying it based solely on the cover and description on the inside flap. I almost never do that anymore...years ago I stopped buying books in favor of ordering them through the library. And now, I usually pick books based on recommendations from websites, friends, book clubs, newspaper, etc. But, it is a pleasure to occasionally browse an independent book store...that's how I discovered the remarkable w Oh the joys of perusing an independent book store and picking up a book by a local author and buying it based solely on the cover and description on the inside flap. I almost never do that anymore...years ago I stopped buying books in favor of ordering them through the library. And now, I usually pick books based on recommendations from websites, friends, book clubs, newspaper, etc. But, it is a pleasure to occasionally browse an independent book store...that's how I discovered the remarkable writer, Russell Banks.
This is a story of a school bus accident that occurs on a snowy morning in upstate NY. Some children are killed and/or seriously hurt and the lives of the residents of this small, tight-knit town are forever changed. Haunting and beautifully written, I vowed to read all of Banks' works as soon as I finished.
Johnny
Few others can approach the painful realism of the lower middle class like Banks. He clearly has a culture of interest and has explored the dynamics of rural New England and the effect of destitution and banality on the lives of these citizens. In "The Sweet Hereafter," Banks has created a masterpiece. He explores the age-old morals of consequences and retribution in the aftermath of unspeakable, yet unintentional tragedy. His characters struggle with these fundamentally human concepts in a way Few others can approach the painful realism of the lower middle class like Banks. He clearly has a culture of interest and has explored the dynamics of rural New England and the effect of destitution and banality on the lives of these citizens. In "The Sweet Hereafter," Banks has created a masterpiece. He explores the age-old morals of consequences and retribution in the aftermath of unspeakable, yet unintentional tragedy. His characters struggle with these fundamentally human concepts in a way that touches all of us who seek some sort of justice when God decides to bring us to our knees without warning. The book's final scene, which takes place at a Demolition Derby of all sites, is the material of literary lore and despite the overwhelming forlornness that permeates these people's lives, the reader can close the book with a sense of epistemological quietude.
Marina Frances
Russell Banks is hands down one of my favorite writers. I was inducted into the Banks obsessesion three years ago with "Rule of the Bone" and have been reverent of his work ever since. Banks is a prolific writer (he's written about twelve books) who has forged a voice and identity with desolate, cold and impoverished pockets of upstate New York (although he also frequently incorporates Jamaica, where he lived for a number of years). "The Sweet Hereafter" is him at his best, rendering a tiny, for Russell Banks is hands down one of my favorite writers. I was inducted into the Banks obsessesion three years ago with "Rule of the Bone" and have been reverent of his work ever since. Banks is a prolific writer (he's written about twelve books) who has forged a voice and identity with desolate, cold and impoverished pockets of upstate New York (although he also frequently incorporates Jamaica, where he lived for a number of years). "The Sweet Hereafter" is him at his best, rendering a tiny, forgotable town in the adirondacks, and its burdened inhabitants, ripped apart by tragedy. As depressing as it sounds, Banks delivers a unique catharsis to readers. He is such a stunning writer I would take that trip without the catharsis.

Also, the book later became a movie which I have yet to see (actor Sarah Polley is in the movie as the most beautiful teenager in town).
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