Waiting for the sweet life
The Sweet Hereafter
Russell Banks has received a lot of praise throughout his career, but the most meaningful compliment came from the brilliant young director, Atom Egoyan, who chose Banks' 1991 novel The Sweet Hereafter as the subject of his latest film. The novel is intricate, moving and real enough to be a worthy vehicle for Egoyan's extraordinary style.
The secluded northern town of Sam Dent is entangled in an inconceivable nightmare after a school bus accident kills most of the local children. Don't fool yourself though, because the usually-safe distance given to the reader does not exist here. Like the characters in the book, no foreknowledge or attempt to prepare yourself could possibly help. This is happening to you, you live in that town, you love those people, you don't just sympathize with their grief and horror you experience it first-hand.
Banks' prose itself is a delight to read, uncomplicated, but as artful as any poetry. All of the charming, shocking, maddening and exhilarating details of small-town life are faithfully presented. Parents, survivors and even lawyers struggle to make sense of the senseless event and the new reality it has created.
The story may sound morbid and honestly at times it is painful, but the overall feeling is optimistic. This extreme tragedy demands strength, both individually and as a community and eventually hope is found again. If you are just dying to see Atom Egoyan's Sweet Hereafter, Banks' novel is sure to satisfy you until then.