A couple of days ago I finished reading this book. It only took me a few days to read as I was completely drawn in the story. It's still haunting me.
The main character, Seymour Levov, nicknamed "the Swede" for his Scandinavian looks by his friends seems to have the perfect life. He himself looks like the embodiment of everything that is "American": he is tall, good looking, athletic, very popular in his town, the heir of a prosperous business, "does his bit" for a couple of years as a Marine, gets to marry a former Miss New Jersey, has a beautiful daughter he adores and a lovely old house in the Country. From the outside it looks as if the Swede has it all. But, in the summer of 1968 his daughter, disgusted by the conduct of the USA in Vietnam and horrified by "the System" detonates a bomb in the local post office that kills an innocent bystander.
That bomb shatters to pieces the life of the Swede.
"A sliver off the comet of the American chaos had come loose and spun all the way out to Old Rimrock and him."
Roth, masterfully goes back in time and with a flowing prose mixed with clever flashbacks tells us all about the inner, secret life of the Levovs as a family.
The story snakes through two important decades in American life, from the Vietnam War to the Watergate scandal, where the plot itself reaches its climax.
Roth poses so many important questions in this book: are people what they seem? Are we capable of understanding the people around us? Even the ones we think we know well? How much input do we actually have in the life of our children? How much strength and restraint should we exercise when dealing with others? Is it possible to cling to good old fashioned values in a world that is rapidly changing? And what values are they anyway?
I found myself questioning my own motives and reasoning many times as I was reading this book.
Completely electrifying, compelling and insightful.
Masterfully, elegantly and sensitively written.
I will certainly be reading more books by Roth. I guess I came to discover him quite late but I am so happy I finally did.
I do recommend it but be ready to be thrown around like a rag doll emotionally speaking!