The Sweet Hereafter
Harper Collins, 1991
The negligence litigator Mitchell Stevens, esq., is permanently teed off and became a lawyer to license his anger and make it pay. But is there a righteous dimension to his work? Seems so: “I turn into a heat-seeking missile, homing in on a target that I know in my bones is going to turn out to be some bungling corrupt state agency or some multinational corporation that’s cost-accounted the difference between a ten-cent bolt and a million-dollar out-of-court settlement and has decided to sacrifice a few lives for the difference. They do that, work the bottom line; I’ve seen it play out over and over again, until you start to wonder about the human species. They’re like clever monkeys, that’s all. They calculate ahead of time what it will cost them to assure safety versus what they’re likely to be forced to settle for damages when the missing bolt sends the bus over a cliff and they simply choose the cheaper option. “And it’s up to the people like me to make it cheaper to build the bus with that extra bolt, or add the extra yard of guardrail, or drain the quarry. That’s the only check you’ve got against them. That’s the only way you can insure moral responsibility in our society. Make them pay.” Preaching connection: inscrutability of God’s providence. A guy goes to law school to make his anger pay him and God uses it to put the fear of God into otherwise chiseling companies.