Everyman by Philip Roth

Regret, loss and aging. Three things that are universal to every man/woman on this planet.

There’s no remaking reality… Just take it as it comes. Hold your ground and take it as it comes. There’s no other way.” 

4/5 stars.
Hardcover, 182 pages.
Read from March 27, 2017 to March 28, 2017.

Mortality, aging, regret and loss are the biggest theme winners in Roth’s awarding winning novel. The unnamed narrator is an Everyman, just an average joe, who has not lived the most sin-free life.  The title of this book is taken from a 15th century play called The Summoning of Everyman that discusses the Christian concept of salvation and how it must be attained.

Our narrator is successful man with a family and long career in creative marketing. He is, however thrice divorced and, for the most part, it is of his own undoing. He just can’t seem to stay faithful. He is the youngest brother yet he is the one that is plagued with the most health problems. He is in and out of hospitals his whole life; from a hernia, appendicitis and multiple heart issues that plague him through his adult life. Some of his children hate him due to the fact that he has ended marriages and families just to pick up and start another one soon after. His driving life force and biggest hinderance is sex. His latest wife is young but inexperienced and ultimately unattached and unprepared to deal with the ailments of an aging man. Our Everyman retires to a home and despite trying to stay lively and busy he is surrounded by the imminent feeling of death, decay and regret.

The pain makes you so alone…We have a pathetic need to be comforted.”

As it becomes apparent that this latest heart problem is going to be the last of him he tries to make amends and find salvation in repairing some relationships with some friends and family.

Many readers were conflicted or disgusted with our Everyman’s lust for young women, Is he a disgusting old man or a withering old man trying to regain a sense of spark and purpose in his quickly declining life? The conflict in reactions is a necessary part of this story because Everyman is us. He is imperfect. He regrets and is afraid of dying. His vigor has been one way that he has defined his ‘aliveness’ and his life.

Many have considered this book partly autobiographical, as Roth himself was a second child and has had many failed marriages and is technically retired.

Regardless of whether or not you liked or appreciated the life of our Everyman, there are moments in this book everyone can sympathize with. Roth’s writing style is morbid and unapologetic, and honest. As well as literary in fashion, concise and engaging. The novel is not a caring piece on how to deal with the nuances of aging and dying but more of a reminder of certain futility in life and in death. A miserable approach, but a philosophical one.

Overall, this book will make you dread getting old but it will also help you appreciate how fleeting life. I would recommend this book to any literary fiction fans as well as those who have an appreciation for Roth’s work. If you are a first time Roth reader I would recommend starting with something a bit lighter, like Portnoy’s Complaint. I would also recommend this book for the older crowd but not for the dying.  There is a little consolation in this story.