Seymour “Swede” Levov, the older brother of Nathan Zuckerman’s classmate at Weequahic High School, embodies the American Dream. An outstanding Jewish athlete, he becomes a U.S. Marine and a graduate of Upsala College, where he meets and falls in love with Mary Dawn Dwyer, Miss New Jersey of 1949 and a contestant in the Miss America Pageant. Although her beauty, talent, and intelligence did not win her the crown, she does manage to win some concessions from Swede’s father, who reluctantly agrees to his son’s wedding to this daughter of an Irish American working-class family.
From then on, one success seems to lead to another, as Swede takes over his father’s flourishing glove-making business in the 1960’s; settles his wife and daughter, Meredith (“Merry”), in a 150-year-old house in suburban Morris County; and helps his wife get started raising cattle. The only cloud on their horizon is Merry’s terrible stutter, which defies the best efforts of her therapist, Sheila Salzman. Whatever it is that underlies Merry’s stutter apparently also motivates her rebellious teenage behavior, which culminates in 1968 when she bombs the village store and post office. A much-loved physician, Dr. Fred Conlon, dies as a result of the bombing, and Meredith becomes a fugitive, going underground for five years.
During this period, Merry is responsible for more bombings and the deaths of three more people, as she tells her shocked and...
(The entire section is 577 words.)