(Masterpieces of American Fiction)

The Sweet Hereafter dramatizes the emotional impact of a school-bus accident on the injured survivors, the families of the victims, and the people of the small mountain town of Sam Dent, New York. A multitude of lawsuits accuse everyone politically connected with the town, the school board, or the school administration of responsibility for the accident, and the town of Sam Dent, initially united in its grief, is divided by the litigation. In order to examine the cause of the accident, the author offers several perspectives of people directly involved with the accident.

Dolores Driscoll, the bus driver, says she that thought she saw a dog through the snow-blinded windshield and swerved to avoid hitting it. How this slight movement was sufficient to send the bus over a guardrail and down a steep incline until it rested on a water-filled sandpit covered with thin ice is beyond her comprehension. Instead of addressing the immediate circumstances, she relates her history of safe driving and loving concern for each child boarding her bus. Influenced by her stroke-debilitated husband, Dolores refuses to sue anyone.

The perspective of a grieving parent and the only witness of the accident is provided by Billy Ansel, who followed the bus every day to wave to his motherless children. However, deep in his thoughts, he noticed nothing different before the bus left the road. Because of his Vietnam War experiences, Billy accepts death as...

(The entire section is 591 words.)


(Novels for Students)

Dolores Driscoll
As The Sweet Hereafter opens, a tragic bus accident resulting in the deaths of fourteen...

(The entire section is 1373 words.)