by Russell Banks


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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780060920074
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 09/26/1990
Series: Harper Perennial
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 368
Sales rank: 672,349
Product dimensions: 5.31(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.82(d)

About 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.

Date of Birth:

March 28, 1940

Place of Birth:

Newton, Massachusetts

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

This is the story of my older brother's strange criminal behavior and his disappearance. No one urged me to reveal these things; no one asked me not to. We who loved him simply no longer speak of Wade, not among ourselves and not with anyone else, either. It is almost as if he never existed, or as if he were a member of some other family or from some other place and we barely knew him and never had occasion to speak of him. So that by telling his story like this, as his brother, I am separating myself from the family and from all those who ever loved him.

In numerous ways I am separated from them anyhow, for while each of us is ashamed of Wade and burdened with anger-my sister, her husband and kids, Wade's ex-wife and his daughter, his fiancee and a few friends-the others are ashamed and burdened in ways that I am not. They are dismayed by their shame, astonished by it, as they should be (he is one of them, after all, and they are good people, in spite of everything); and they are confused by their anger. Which is perhaps why they have not asked me to keep silent. I myself am neither dismayed nor confused: like Wade, I have been ashamed and angry practically since birth and am accustomed to holding both those skewed relations to the world: it makes me, among those who loved him, uniquely qualified to tell his story.

Even so, I know how the others think. They are secretly hoping that they have got Wade's story wrong and that I can somehow get it right or at least get it said in such a way that we will all be released from our shame and anger and can speak lovingly again of our brother, husband, father, lover, old friend, around thesupper table or in the car on a long drive or in bed late at night, wondering where the poor man is now, before we fall asleep.

That will not happen. Nevertheless, I tell it for them, for the others as much as for myself. They want, through the telling, to regain him; I want only to be rid of him. His story is my ghost life, and I want to exorcise it.

As for forgiveness: it must be spoken of, I suppose, but who among us can hope to proffer it? Even I, at this considerable distance from the crimes and the pain, cannot forgive him. It is the nature of forgiveness that when you forgive someone, you no longer have to protect yourself from him, and for the rest of our lives we will have to protect ourselves from Wade. Regardless, it is too late now for forgiveness to do him any good. Wade Whitehouse is gone. And I believe that we will never see him again.

Everything of importance-that is, everything that gives rise to the telling of this story -- occurred during a single deerhunting season in a small town, a village, located in a dark forested valley in upstate New Hampshire, where Wade was born and raised and so was I, and where most of the Whitehouse family has lived for five generations. Think of a village in a medieval German folktale. Think of a cluster of old and new but mostly old houses and shops and a river running through and hillside meadows and tall trees. The town is named Lawford, and it is one hundred fifty miles north of where I live now.

Wade was forty-one that fall and in bad shape -- everyone in town knew it but was not particularly upset by it. In a village, you see people's crises come and go, and you learn to wait them out: most people do not change, especially seen from up close; they just grow more elaborate.

Consequently, everyone who knew Wade was waiting out his gloom, his heavy drinking, his dumb belligerence. His crisis was his character in sharp relief. Even I, down south in the suburbs of Boston, was waiting him out. It was easy for me. I am ten years younger than Wade, and I abandoned the family and the town of Lawford when I graduated high schoolescaped from them, actually, though it sometimes feels like abandoned. I went to college, the first in the family to do that, and became a high school teacher and a man of meticulous routine. For many years, I regarded Wade as a gloomy, alcoholic and stupidly belligerent man, like our father, but now he had gotten into his forties without killing himself or anyone else, and I expected that he would, like our father, get into his fifties, sixties and maybe seventies the same way, so I did not worry about Wade.

Though he visited me twice that fall and called me on the telephone often and at great length, several times a week and usually late at night, after he had been drinking for hours and had sent everyone near him scurrying for safety, I was not moved much one way or the other. I listened passively to his rambling tirades against his ex-wife, Lillian, and his mournful declarations of love for his daughter, Jill, and his threats to inflict serious bodily harm on many of the people who lived and worked with him, people whom, as the town police officer, he was sworn to protect. Preoccupied with the details of my own life, I listened to him as if he were a boring soap opera on TV and I was too busy or distracted by the details of my own life to get up and change the channel.

It would pass, I felt, with the pain of his divorce from Lillian and of her remarriage and departure from town with Jill in tow. Six more months, I felt, would do it. That would put him three full years beyond the divorce, two years beyond Lillian's move south to Concord, and well into springtime: snowmelt running off the hills, the lakes breaking free of ice, daylight lingering into evening. Maybe he will fall in love with someone else, I thought.

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Affliction 4.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 10 reviews.
abirdman on LibraryThing 21 days ago
I consider this Banks' best novel. A hard and unflinching examination of deeply flawed characters, Banks is fair, respectful, compassionate, and almost loving with them. This was made into a good movie, but read the book first. The book depressed me for weeks, but maybe it was the "good kind" of depression.
JosephJ on LibraryThing 25 days ago
Rolfe Whitehouse narrates how he believes the last few days of Wade¿s (his older brother) life played out. Rolfe makes it clear from the beginning that Wade Whitehouse went missing and under some very violent circumstances. From there Rolfe dips in and out of the minds of many characters that inhabit Wade¿s world. Rolfe is trying to make sense of Wade¿s final days so that he could possibly move on with his own life, which may prove harder that Rolfe realizes. The major theme is that of the danger that traditional ideas about manhood (strong, warrior-like, breadwinning, emotionally cold) can cause on an individual who may not fit that mold. Abuse and alcoholism represent the vicious cycle of violence perpetuated by these masculine ideals, to which no man could ever live up. Most of the men in Affliction fall into coarse versions of those ideals by asserting their dominance and power in other, usually violent, ways. Banks expertly creates the mood of a New Hampshire winter steeped with beauty and, strangely, aggression. All the open wilderness is a claustrophobic space that these characters live in, and things get hairy in such tight quarters. The landscape, the abuse and alcoholism, the thwarted male ideology all work well to show the breakdown of man who tumbles through a series of unfortunate circumstances, never really finding the footing he needs to right himself.Great read. Still have to see the movie.
VictoriaNH on LibraryThing 25 days ago
I enjoyed this book since I live in NH and can see how cloying and close small town life can be. I didn't give it 4 stars as it could have used some editing. The descriptions of the surroundings and the small town were overly long and parts of the book seemed repetitive. However, the story was well told and engaging.
SeriousGrace on LibraryThing 28 days ago
Wade Whitehouse could be an ordinary guy. He could be that small town, hard-working, have a beer with the boys, all-around nice guy. Except bad luck not only follows Wade like a hungry dog, it bites him when he's down. No matter how caring Wade Whitehouse is on the inside, no matter how well-meaning he is, when things go wrong people know not to stand in his way. The entire tiny town of Lawford, New Hampshire knows Wade and his troubles. It's no secret he has a mean streak that runs to the center of his very core. Alcohol and a nagging toothache only widen that streak until it takes over his whole being. In theory it's not all Wade's fault. Abused by his father during his formative years, Wade loses his wife, home and daughter when he himself turns violent. All he wants is more time with his daughter, a decent paycheck and a simple way of life. When none of these things come easily Wade sets out to unveil the truth and right the wrongs, using violence as the vehicle to do so. What makes Wade's story so fascinating is that it is told from a younger brother's perspective. Being in Massachusetts he is a comfortable distance from both his brother and the memories that have scarred him, too.
piefuchs on LibraryThing 5 months ago
An excellent examination of the roots of family violence. The fall of intelligent man stuck in a deadend town with a deadend job and a taste for alcohol is beautifully and painfully told by his brother, the college professor. An exceptional book by a great author, this is the penultimate example of Banks' New Hampshire. The movie (which I saw prior to reading the book) is a worthy rendition of the novel.
wordygirl39 on LibraryThing 5 months ago
This is my favorite Banks book that I've read. The movie was good, too. Don't read it if you're depressed, though.
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Guest More than 1 year ago
This novel was unbelieveable. It will always keep you on the edge of your seat. The details and descriptions of the main character's troubled childhood and the rising action throughout the novel are so well written that not only can you relate to it and show your own emotions toward the plot, but you can picture yourself their as well. I would highly recommend this book! You will not be disappointed!
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book is such a triller!!The drama and heartache that the characters have to deal with and go through really touch your heart and mind. Wade goes through so many hard times and deals with so much in his life that one day he just goes crazy and kills his father and the man that took over his job. Wade felt like he had nothing left in the world, and that the cause of all of his problems were brought upon him from the abuise of his father and also the man that stole his job, the last place he could be free and away from all his pain. Wades brother (the auther) tells the story so accuretly, and shows the true felt emotions that Wade had to go through. I definently recommend this book to readers who enjoy true heart wrenching stories.