The latest work - his twenty-seventh - from legendary writer Philip Roth (The Human Stain, The Plot Against America, Sabbathís Theater, American Pastoral) is a slim yet densely written novel in which Roth culls from his usual themes: sex, aging, family, heritage, and so on and so forth. Everyman opens up at the unnamed main characterís funeral where people show up out of care and others show up and wish they could be elsewhere. It is an interesting and somewhat compelling opening - not explosive by any means, but this isnít an action thriller, so it all works. The pages are numbered but there are no chapters; the novel reads as one continuous story without any breaks to delineate where you are.
Itís roughly at the twenty/twenty-five page mark where the story turns and it starts to tell of the main characterís childhood. This middle part is really just a long stretch of maladies ranging from his hernia operation in 1942, to his severe occlusion of a major coronary artery in 1989, to the obstruction of his left carotid artery in 1999. There is major character development along the way: it speaks of his children and his relationships with them, multiple wives, and mistresses. But there isnít any real plot in the traditional sense. Itís really just this manís decline in health and the consequences of how it affects his life.
As we round third and head for home, the story becomes more about how this once thriving man who worked in advertising laments his loss of physical prowess (sexual, too), his envy of his healthy brother, and the regrets of his bad behavior. But Everymanís strength is that it all rings true Ė even if it is depressing, many will undeniably relate to this character and find the whole thing compelling from beginning to end. Everyman is an interesting novel, well-written and the perfect length for such a story. If you have read any of Rothís previous works you will no doubt enjoy this one as well.