It?s not hard for the reader to guess what?s happened to Marcus: it?s pretty obvious the moment that he announces that he?s dead and stuck in limbo, where he seems doomed to review the events of his brief life over and over again. The suspense stems more from seeing exactly how Mr. Roth will connect all the dots. There is a suggestion, here and there, that he wants us to read Marcus?s story as a sort of parable about what happens to the individual when his paltry existence is hit head-on by the locomotive of history, but in the end this little novel possesses neither the ambition nor the scope of the author?s big postwar trilogy (?American Pastoral,? ?I Married a Communist? and ?The Human Stain?).
It?s a far more modest undertaking than that: more of a darkly comic exercise in the danger of self-fulfilling prophecies and the folly of thinking that being a hard-working A student will offer any sort of protection from the mad vagaries of fate.