REVIEWED BY KYLE SMITH
It's the '50s, and Marcus Messner, furious with his overprotective dad, has transferred to a college out of state. Seems like the stuff of a routine first novel—which is part of Roth's trick. Marcus, we learn, didn't live to age 20; he is narrating from the beyond. The suspense about why he died is what gives the story its awful momentum, but the interplay between a life just begun and ended, impulse and reflection, college high jinks and eternity is what makes it resonate.