Readers who have followed Philip Roth\''s hero and alter-ego Nathan Zuckerman through five previous novels will be happy to see him again in American Pastoral, a novel that finds Nathan attending a high school reunion in Newark, New Jersey. But enjoy him while you can. Nathan disappears on page 89 and the story turns toward the particulars of Seymour Levov—the Swede, to his friends—a classmate of Zuckerman\''s whose life, it turns out, is nothing like what Nathan had imagined for him. More precisely, American Pastoral follows the fortunes of young Merry Levov, Swede\''s only child. At the age of 16, Merry gets involved with the Weathermen and blows up a post office, accidentally killing a man. She goes on the run and her life becomes one of violence, destitution, and irrationality. The central question in American Pastoral is, how could this fruit fall so terribly far from the tree? How could a decent man like Swede Levov and his respectable wife have raised a creature like Merry? Is it the parents\'' fault, or are Merry\''s choices the inevitable response to a crumbling America? In Swede Levov, Philip Roth has created a modern-day Job, and the calamities that befall him are the plagues of our times.