Sweet Hereafter (Movie Tie-In)

Sweet Hereafter (Movie Tie-In)

4.1 17
by Russell Banks

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In The Sweet Hereafter, Russell Banks tells a story that begins with a school bus accident. Using four different narrators, Banks creates a small-town morality play that addresses one of life's most agonizing questions: when the worst thing happens, who do you blame?


In The Sweet Hereafter, Russell Banks tells a story that begins with a school bus accident. Using four different narrators, Banks creates a small-town morality play that addresses one of life's most agonizing questions: when the worst thing happens, who do you blame?

Editorial Reviews

Chicago Tribune
Without sentimentalizing them in the least, Banks has extended the themes explored in his previous novels . . . to show that wiser, possibly even better people can emerge from the ordeal: that some old American decencies still prevail, against all odds.
San Francisco Chronicle
Banks poses many questions, and his canvas is far larger than any thumbnail sketch of its components can suggest.
This beautifully written book's most brilliant strategy is . . . to explore the complexity of grief and hope.
Michiko Kakutani
Mr. Banks . . . does a smoothly professional job of giving the reader a finely observed portrait of small town life . . . It's as though he has cast a large stone into a quiet pond, then minutely charted the shape and size of the ripples sent out in successive waves . . . It is often gripping, consistently engaging and from time to time genuinely affecting.
The Sweet Hereafter . . . is a close and haunting story of a small town in distress . . . unflinching and quietly powerful.
Richard Eder
A novel of compelling moral suspense . . . [a] superb book . . . a remarkable book, a sardonic and compassionate account of a community and its people.
Boston Globe
Russell Banks's fiction holds such a simple, internal authority . . . The story he tells is grave and unusually urgent, his prose as careful as a trail of stones left in the forest . . . These voices ache with a particular brand of reality [and] Banks evokes each of his characters with fluid authenticity . . . Russell Banks is a writer of extraordinary power.
Atlanta Constitution
Mr. Banks's colorful characters are so believable they could have stepped out of the Rendez-Vous tavern across from the Bide-A-Wile motel . . . The Sweet Hereafter is rich in imagery and the detail of small-town life and haunting in its portrayal of ordinary men and women struggling to understand loss. Under Mr. Banks's restrained craftsmanship, what begins as the story of senseless tragedy is transformed into an aspiring testament to hope and human resilience.
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Banks employs a series of narrators to present a powerful account of an Adirondack community riven by a bus accident that claims 14 children. A Literary Guild alternate in cloth. (Aug.)
Library Journal
One snowy morning in the small town of Sam Dent in upstate New York, a school bus careens into a frozen stream, killing 14 children. The Sweet Hereafter examines the aftereffects of this accident through the eyes of four narrators: the driver of the bus, a parent devastated by the loss of two children, an opportunistic big-city lawyer, and a permanently crippled teenager who survived the crash. Grief and an obsessive need to assign blame draw the townspeople together; all too quickly the focus shifts from what they have lost to how much they stand to collect in insurance settlements. Banks, who along with Raymond Carver, Ernest Herbert, and a handful of other writers has revived the genre of working-class fiction in the last decade, is uncharacteristically heavy-handed in extracting a moral from these proceedings. Not up to the high standard set by Continental Drift ( LJ 4/15/85). Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 5/15/91.-- Edward B. St. John, Loyola Law Sch. Lib., Los Angeles

Product Details

HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
Harper Perennial
Edition description:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
5.31(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.61(d)
1180L (what's this?)

Read an Excerpt

Dolores Driscoll

A dog--it was a dog I saw for certain. Or thought I saw. It was snowing pretty hard by then, and you can see things in the snow that aren't there, or aren't exactly there, but you also can't see some of the things that are there, so that by God when you do see something, you react anyhow, erring on the distaff side, if you get my drift. That's my training as a driver, but it's also my temperament as a mother of two grown sons and wife to an invalid, and that way when I'm wrong at least I'm wrong on the side of the angels.

It wag like the ghost of a dog I saw, a reddish-brown blur, much smaller than a deer--which is what you'd expect to see out there that early--although the same gingerbread color as a deer it was, moving fast behind the cloud of snow falling between us, then slow, and then stopped altogether in the middle of the road, like it was trying to make up its mind whether to go on or go back.

I couldn't see it clearly, so can't say what it was for sure, but I saw the blur clearly, that's what I mean to say, and that's what I reacted to. These things have to happen faster than you can think about them, because if they don't, you're going to be locked in place just like that dog or deer or whatever the hell it was, and you'll get smacked head-on the same as that dog would have if I hadn't hit the brake and pulled the wheel without thinking.

But there's no point now to lingering over the dog, whether it was a dog or a tiny deer, or even an optical illusion, which, to be absolutely truthful, now seems likeliest. AH that matters is that I saw something I didn't expect out there and didn'tparticularly identify at the time, there being no time for that--so let's just say it was like a dog, one of those small red spaniels, smaller than a setter, the size of a kid in a rust-colored snowsuit, and I did what anyone with half a brain would have done: I tried to avoid hitting it.

It was in first fight and, as I said, blowing snow by then, but when I started my route that morning, when I left the house, it was still dark, of course, and no snow falling. You could sniff the air, though, and smell it coming, but despite that, I had thought at first that it was too cold to snow. Which is what I said to Abbott, who is my husband and doesn't get out of the house very much because of his being in a wheelchair, so I have this habit of reporting the weather to him, more or less, every morning when I first step out of the kitchen onto the back porch.

"I smell snow," I said, and leaned down and checked the thermometer by the door. It's posted low on the frame of the storm door, so Abbott can scoot over and open the inside door and check the temperature anytime he wants. "Seventeen below," I told him. "Too cold to snow."

Abbott was at one time an excellent carpenter, but in 1984 he had a stroke, and although he has recovered somewhat, he's still pretty much housebound and has trouble talking normally and according to some people is incomprehensible, yet I myself understand him perfectly. No doubt it's because I know that his mind is dear. The way Abbott has handled the consequences of his stroke is sufficient evidence that he is a very courageous man, but he was always a logical person with a lively interest in the world around him, so I make an effort to bring him as much information about the world as I can. It's the least I can do.

'Never . . . that . . . cold," he said. He's worked out a way of talking with just the left side of his mouth, but he stammers some and spits a bit and makes a grimace that some people would find embarrassing and so would look away and as a result not fully understand him. I myself find his way of talking very interesting, actually, and even charming. And not just because I'm used to it. To tell the truth, I don't think I'll ever get used to it, which is why it's so interesting and attractive to me. Me, I'm a talker, and consequently like a lot of talkers tend to say things I don't mean. But Abbott, more than anyone else I know, has to make his words count, almost like a poet, and because he's passed so dose to death he has a clarity about life that most of us can't even imagine.

"North . . . Pole's . . . under . . . snow," he said.

No arguing with that. I grabbed my coffee thermos, pecked him with a kiss and waved him goodbye as, usual, shut the door and went out to the barn and got my bus started. I kept an extra battery and jumper cables in the kitchen, just in case, but the old girl was fine that morning and cranked right up. By nature I'm a careful person and not overly optimistic, especially when it comes to machinery and tools, I keep everything in tiptop condition, with plenty of backup. Batteries, tires, oil, antifreeze, the whole bit. I treated that bus like it was my own, maybe even better, for obvious reasons, but also because that's my temperament. I'm the kind of person who always follows the manual. No shortcuts.

What People are saying about this

Gail Caldwell
"Russell Banks is a writer of extraordinary power."

Meet the Author

Russell Banks, twice a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize, is one of America’s most prestigious fiction writers, a past president of the International Parliament of Writers, and a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters. His work has been translated into twenty languages and has received numerous prizes and awards, including the Common Wealth Award for Literature. He lives in upstate New York and Miami, Florida.

Brief Biography

Date of Birth:
March 28, 1940
Place of Birth:
Newton, Massachusetts

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Sweet Hereafter 4.1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 17 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I enjoyed the narration by different perspectives. It made it very hard to make someone out as a bad guy. Some of the narrations left me wanting more. What ever happened to the attorney and his daughter? There is a lot of character development but then it left me hanging.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I recently finished this novel, which I was asked to read for my grade 8 class. The teacher thought I would like it because it deals with kids my age. Sadly, I found this book disturbing and inapropriate. The descriptive parts were long and redundant, and it had way to much sexual content for a 13 year old. If any of you are teachers reading this, I would urge you not to give it to your class as required reading.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Nice story. Just a little less rushed and more detail. :) read mine at 'erduit' all results continued at 'uj' results 1-13!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book was fantastic. Within the first ten pages I was hooked and couldn't set it down! Very good story...
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
It's written in such a way that you just flow from one event to the next. The language is simple but powerful. I totally recommend it!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I love this book i cant even stop reading it . This book is so exciting
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
a great book that really made me think and evoked a great deal of emotion
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Guest More than 1 year ago
What happens to a small town when it loses a number of its children in a senseless accident? 'The Sweet Hereafter' is narrated by different people involved in the accident, each with his/her perspective, opinion, and ox to gore. I particularly admire Banks' ability to change voice from one person to the next, and the way he maintains suspense not only from a plot point of view (what happens next?) but also by reliability of narrator (that's what he said; what will she say?). My only gripe is that it's a rather short book and could have gone into more detail. But isn't it better for a novel to be too short than too long?
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
It had been almost a week amd sammy was still trapped. M-14 had become known as Diego and she had figured out how to communicate and had come to like him and a new doctor had been brought. Dr.Alyssa and sammy was getting weaker and weaker. Suddenly everything went black she heard glass shattering and liquid poured down her throat. She awoke she felt different the vat had changed her. She looked down and saw that she was now a mishmash of animal parts. Diego had left. Sammy didnt know why but she desperately wanted him to come back. The liquid from the shattered vat had contaminated the lab and they had to move not a day went by that sammy didnt think of diego. While mandy loved to lock her in a cage. Sammy made a new friend a raccoon named lucky. Now she waited alone in her cell every day for diego her only friend at the labs. (Get the hint diego)