The road leading me to Foregone - the newest novel by Russell Banks - was paved by film adaptations of two of his earlier books - The Sweet Hereafter and Affliction. Though both films were at times difficult to watch, the elemental stories in each were delivered with no sentimentality; not a single false note in either script. As the credits rolled for The Sweet Hereafter, I noted the source material, then did the same after seeing Affliction a few months later in 1997. Unfortunately, Russell Banks then languished on my list of "to read" authors for years until a member of my posse suggested Foregone to me a few weeks back.
Based on two films I've seen adapted from his work and the single novel I've now finished, I'm guessing Russell Banks is probably not real good at small talk. Foregone tackles big themes - regret, betrayal, and abandonment - with an unflinching glare. Such are the gifts of this author that the unlikable, unsympathetic protagonist nearing the end of his life riveted and repulsed me in equal measure. And given the extraordinary conclusion of this book, I doubt I will ever forget Leonard Fife.
If I've read a stronger finish to a novel in the last twenty years, I don't remember what that novel is. As excellent as the first 245 pages are - shimmering prose, inventive architecture, stunning and hard-earned insights - the final 60 pages of Foregone are transformative. When you get to Fade Out, you might be holding your breath. Read this jewel and tell me if that is not the case.