Moses Wapshot, the handsome, promising elder son of Leander and Sarah Wapshot. His quasi-idyllic life in St. Botolphs, a formerly prosperous Massachusetts river town, comes to an abrupt end when his aunt Honora discovers his affair with Rosalie Young. In the same way that earlier generations of young Wapshot males were sent to sea, Moses is sent out into a tempestuous modern America. In Washington, D.C., he loses his government job because his affair with a singer named Beatrice makes him a security risk. Immediately afterward, a chance meeting leads to a well-paying position in New York and in turn to his meeting Melissa Scaddon, a distant relation. He later marries her.
Coverly Wapshot, Moses’ younger, less promising, and less manly brother. He too leaves St. Botolphs, but secretly and voluntarily, and his odyssey proves even more wayward. Ill-prepared for life outside the confines of his sleepy hometown, he tries to secure a job at a relative’s factory in New York only to be judged unemployable on the basis of his emotional profile. He is hired as a stock boy in a department store and takes night classes in computer taping. He meets his future wife, Betsey, in the sandwich shop where she works. After a nine-month posting on a Pacific island, Coverly takes up residence in Remsen Park, the monotonously modern residential area attached to the rocket-launching center where he has been reassigned. Coverly’s slapstick love for his “sandwich-shop Venus” is beset by troubles, but eventually the two are reunited and produce a male heir.
Leander Wapshot, the last of the seafaring and journal-keeping Wapshots. His New England roots go back to 1630. Leander’s attachment to the sea is real but takes the decidedly reduced form of ferrying passengers across the bay to a local amusement park aboard the thirty-year-old Topaze. Boyishly enthusiastic and appealingly ceremonious and celebratory, he suffers numerous blows to his self-esteem, primarily at the hands of his cousin Honora, who holds the family purse strings and who puts the Topaze up for sale, and his wife Sarah, who later converts the Topaze into a floating...
(The entire section is 925 words.)