In this funny and chilling novel, the setting is a small town in the 1940s Midwest, and the subject is the heart of a wounded and ferociously moralistic young woman, one of those implacable American moralists whose "goodness" is a terrible disease. When she was still a child, Lucy Nelson had her alcoholic failure of a father thrown in jail. Ever since then she has been trying to reform the men around her, even if that ultimately means destroying herself in the process. With his unerring portraits of Lucy and her hapless, childlike husband, Roy, Roth has created an uncompromising work of fictional realism, a vision of provincial American piety, yearning, and discontent that is at once pitiless and compassionate.
I hated the book because the heroine was horrible. Roth's talent wasn't horrible though. In fact, I found myself so mad at the character that I was mad at Roth for being so talented to make me feel that strongly about a fictitious person. Hence, I hated the book, because it was well-written when presenting a despicable character!