It took me quite some time to read this book, but I finally managed to read its last pages a couple of days ago. It takes a lot of your energy to digest the events in the American Pastoral, as everything that happens seems to be too absurd to actually take place in a real world.
Seymour Levov, ‘The Swede’ is a Jew from the middle-upper class of America, somewhere in the 60s. He has everything one could ever want. He runs a successful family business, he is good-looking, he marries Miss New Jersey, he buys the perfect house and he has a daughter named Marry.
Marry who is actually the one that ruins his life until he dies. Marry, who was against all that modern America had to offer and who, in an attempt to prove that the Vietnam war should stop, puts a bomb in the local shopping center and kills a person. She then becomes a fugitive, sets other places on fire and kills three more people.
The book tells the story of The Swede and his infinite attempts to understand what went wrong, at what moment in time he did something that could affect Marry and lead her to such actions. He struggles with questions all the time, he feels guilty, he finds excuses for her. His drama is enormous and endless.
It’s a book for which you have to allocate quite a big amount of time. To read it, to understand it and to arrive to empathize with the characters. It will shock you sometimes, it will make you sigh, you will feel anger, pity, love and hate. It takes you, chapter by chapter, to intense feelings, it will question your moral, your values, your truth.
The American Pastoral is part of the American Trilogy written by Philip Roth, together with ‘I married a communist’ and ‘The Human Stain’.