American Pastoral

Roth, Philip. American Pastoral. Read by Ron Silver. Beverly Hills, CA: Phoenix Audio, 2005.

Reason read: Father’s day is in June.

Where does one begin when trying to describe American Pastoral? The jumping off point might be to say this: in the beginning of AP reoccurring character Nathan Zuckerman is attending his 45th high school reunion where he runs into the brother of Seymour “Swede” Levov. The Swede was a high school athletic god with the seemingly perfect life. Through this meeting the reader hears the details of how Seymour’s life ended up. But, that’s oversimplifying the story in a huge way. Zuckerman’s narrative dies off and American Pastoral becomes more of a commentary on a variety of subjects. At the center is Swede Levov and the continuation of his perfect high school life (now in the 1960s in the suburbs of New Jersey; successful upper class businessman, married to former Miss New Jersey). Everything is perfect. Enter the Vietnam War and a willful, protesting daughter. All hell breaks loose when Merry commits an act of terror, bombing a post office and killing a man. American Pastoral takes a look at what it means to be a family facing falling apart and scandal, what it means to have faith, what it means to lose faith, what it means to be an American, what it means to be un-American and everything in between.

Quote I liked, “The candor stopped just where it should have begun” (p 798).

Author fact: Roth won a Pulitzer for fiction after writing American Pastoral.

Narrator fact: Ron Silver is also an actor, appearing on Chicago Hope – a show I have never seen.

Book trivia: American Pastoral was made into a movie starring Ewan McGregor in 2016.

Nancy said: “Popular fiction of late has as its text of subtext a family in trouble” (p 82), naming American Pastoral as an example.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust twice. First, in the chapter called “Families in Trouble” (p 82) and again a couple of pages later in the chapter called “Fathers and Daughters” (p 84).

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