NemesisLarge Print - 2010
At the center of Nemesis is twenty-three year old playground director Bucky Cantor, an athlete who is devoted to his charges and disappointed that his weak eyes have excluded him from serving in the war. Focusing on Cantor's dilemmas as polio begins to ravage his playground - and on the everyday realities he faces - Roth leads us through every inch of emotion such a pestilence can breed: fear, panic, anger, bewilderment, suffering, and pain.
Moving between the smoldering streets of Newark and Indian Hill, a pristine children's summer camp high in the Poconos - whose 'mountain air was purified of all contaminants" - Roth depicts a decent, energetic man with the best intentions struggling in his own private war against the epidemic. Roth is tenderly exact at every point about Cantor's passage into personal disaster and no less exact about the condition of childhood.