This is a historically imagined polio outbreak in Newark in the summer on 1944. Bucky who wishes he was in the military fighting in the pacific is disqualified because of his bad eyesight. Instead he is the playground director for a local school. Apart from his bad eyesight he is the epitome of manliness. When the chance arises he goes to the Poconos which is polio free. Then the twist occurs which I am not giving away for it is spoilirsh.
I have to be honest I had a hard time getting through this book as it seemed nothing happened. I know usually the first 100 pages is used for scene setting but this book dragged on past that. The book went into detail about the playground. Kids died. It described in excruciating detail about Bucky’s past and how he wanted to join the military. The overall theme of the book was what kind of God would let polio happen? I was getting pissed. I wanted a twist or SOMETHING big to happen in the book. In the end I got what I wanted. I really did not see that twist coming. It is at the end of the book so you will have to suffer through 200 pages to get to it but boy, it it worth it!
To be fair it did give an accurate portrayal of the horrifying conditions and the panic that ensued.I was able to empatize with the characters. While reading this book I felt bad for the people that got polio and suffered it devastating effects before the vaccine was created. What it must have been like for those people not knowing where polio came from or how it was spread.Philip Roth does a brilliant job of creating a historically accurate portrayal of that summer. How the kids on the playground felt when their friends died or was confined to an iron lung. How healthy kids were falling one by one to the disease.
The part that bothered me was the long drawn out descriptions of the summer camp. That I could do without. I am sure most of us have been to summer camp and is aware of what it entails. However it is here that the twist comes up and it makes suffering through the 200 pages prior worth it.