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The Sweet Hereafter Paperback – Sep 1992


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Product details

  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: HarperPerennial; Reprint edition (Sept. 1992)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060923245
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060923242
  • Product Dimensions: 13.5 x 1.5 x 20.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (30 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 326,765 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 27 Oct. 1998
Format: Paperback
On the surface, The Sweet Hereafter, by Russell Banks, seems to be a story about how the small town of Sam Dent in upper New York state deals with the accidental deaths of several of its children. However, the novel more deeply examines the way different members of the community deal with the tragedy. Four characters each narrate a portion of the story, and each narrator has a unique way of viewing and interpreting the events that have taken place. Each narrator brings his or her own life experiences into the description of the events surrounding the accident. The combination of each narrator's version of the truth allows the reader to come to his or her own conclusion about who, if anyone, is responsible for the suffering that this small town has experienced. People believe what they want to believe, and, as a result, the truth (or the most sensible version of the truth) often becomes clouded. The bus accident that killed several of the children of Sam Dent had very different effects on each of the citizens of the town. While some feel like their lives have been torn apart by the accident; others, like the character of Nichole Burnell, a survivor of the crash, feel that they have been liberated by it. Most lives were changed by the accident, but Nichole's life actually improved because of the accident. After the crash, Nichole had the emotional strength to deal with the problems that had been present in her family for years. The author's use of different writing styles for each of the different characters makes the novel truly believeable. Each narrator is given his or her own individual voice. No character is similar to any of the others, and it is this distinct voice that makes each character's account of the accident worth reading.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 23 Oct. 1998
Format: Paperback
The Sweet Hereafter is a realistic tale about the small town of Sam Dent through the eyes and minds of four people. Sam Dent is shattered by a tragic school bus accident were many children die or are injured.
Four people are now fatally linked by this tragedy:
We experience the accident first hand through the eyes of the bus driver, Dolores Driscoll. Banks lets us peek into her psyche as she contemplates her part in the accident. She questions herself and is quite willing to accept her fate, yet she lacks the courage to declare her innocence.
Behind the bus at the time of the accident is Billy Ansel, a Marine Vietnam veteran. He not only witnesses the crash but also the deaths of his two children, the only thing he had to live for. We delve into his mind and explore his thoughts and feelings. Billy Ansel has a tragic story of his own: once a war hero, now little more than broken man with a heart of stone. Ansel becomes a mentor for Nichole Burnell, and though he is a tragic hero gone to alcoholism we can not help but admire his morals that help inspire Nichole Burnell to rebel against parasitic lawyer types.
Mitchell Stephens is one of those big city lawyers that plagues Sam Dent in a time of tragedy. Banks allows us to see that he is not just one of those big city lawyers, Mitchell Stephens is a human as well. We experience life through his eyes, and we learn that even a lawyer has his own morals.
Nichole Burnell is the queen of her class. Her destiny to become a rising star is given a violent turn as she is maimed by the accident. The heroine of the story comes to terms with herself and other darker conflicts of her past; and by doing this she is able to save the town from itself.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 13 Oct. 1998
Format: Paperback
As soon as I started reading the "Billy Ansel" portion of the book, I knew why my teacher had us read it. His goal was for us was to understand the diversity of the characters and the perception of each by different people in the novel. He couldn't have picked a better book. When I first started the book, Dolores was just a lady driving a school bus. Her knowledge of the others in her town was your basic gossip. She knew enough to fill you in on the people. And then Billy, "...at the moment it [the accident] occured I was thinking about f***ing Risa Walker"(37). Needless to say, my jaw dropped. That was the last thing I expected. I enjoyed the chance to look into the characters' minds and to see things from their point of view. I got to see how they reacted to their surroundings and to each other. Each believed that they knew everything about each other when no one really knew the truths. Each character had his or her own secrets that no one knew about. I liked the way Banks worked in Zoe, Stephins daughter. Stephins had lost his daughter to drugs. He felt helpless just like the parents of Sam Dent. Over all, I enjoyed the book. It was a little sad, a little twisted, but good.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 30 May 1999
Format: Paperback
After a bus accident kills several children in a small town, everyone needs someone to blame. Russell Banks tells this story well by focussing on only a few characters and letting us get into their heads by way of switching narrators, among whom are parents of the dead children, a teenager who survived the accident, the bus driver, and a lawyer in town to get rich off of the accident. Banks is unwavering in his portrayal of immense grief and you feel by the end as though you personally know the characters. I read this only after seeing the movie and was not disappointed
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