this is a really hard one to review. i feel like this book is full of major pros and cons. the cons are easier, so i'll start with them:- the beginning of this book, maybe through the first 80-90 pages or so, was an absolute chore to get through. it probably took me 5 days to read those pages. the feeling of it being an obligation to finish something i've started faded but never completely went away. or i should say it would go away, but always came back here and there throughout.- it is unclear whether the entire story/plot of the book happened (in the context of the story) or is fabricated by a secondary character (representing roth himself, presumably). but wait, you're thinking, it's clearly a book of fiction, why does it matter whether roth the author or zuckerman the character makes up this story? maybe it doesn't, but when reading the story, it bugs that you're never sure.- maybe this is one of the points that roth is making, but the main protagonist, the swede, who is overall a very solid, good person with some flaws, completely steps out of what makes sense for his character when he kisses his 11 year old daughter on their way back from an outing at the beach. this is the first thing we read about in what becomes the swede's story - so did it happen or is it zuckerman's made up narrative? and the justification for it (that they were both 'dopily sun-drunk' and 'all stirred up by the strong sea and the hot sun') is wholly inadequate. not just by society's standards, but actually by the narrative's standards. the action and the reasoning behind it do not fit with this character.as for pros, i like a few points that i believe he's making:- the idea and the idyll of the american dream is really just an illusion- nostalgia is an illusion- what you know or think you know about another person is wrapped up in your fabrications about them- a lot more goes into how a child turns out and interacts with this world than parenting...i expect to think more about this book over the coming days, so i may add more later. but for now, quotes:"And since we don't just forget things because they don't matter but also forget things because they matter too much - because each of us remembers and forgets in a pattern whose labyrinthine windings are an identification mark no less distinctive than a fingerprint - it's no wonder that the shards of reality one person will cherish as a biography can seem to someone else who, say, happened to have eaten some ten thousand dinners at the very same kitchen table, to be a willful excursion into mythomania.""Who is set up for tragedy and the incomprehensibility of suffering? Nobody. The tragedy of the man not set up for tragedy - that is every man's tragedy."