Malamud's earlier book (The Natural -- published in 1952 by Harcourt, Brace) was a strange and arresting story of a ball player, which in its fantastic invention assumed the proportions of the impossible. This second (?) venture is in a wholly different field, and reads like a documentary in its portrayal of the marginal existence of an immigrant family in a changing economy. For the Bobers things were bad and looked to stay that way. Customers were scarce at their dingy grocery delicatessen, while the brightly lighted supermarket flourished and Morris and Ida Bober dreamed of selling the little store which had become their prison. Neither they nor their children had any luck;- their son had died young, their daughter, Helen, lived the death of her dream of college. Then the dreary routine is interrupted by catastrophe -- a holdup, and Morris beaten to unconsciousness. Frank, a young stranger and a Gentile- resented by orthodox Ida- offers to help them out, and Morris begins to suspect his motives. Was he implicated in the robbery; or is he seeking another theft, the theft of Helen's love? Helen gives him books instead of the love he seeks until Frank saves her from the man who had been his accomplice. And ultimately- after Morris' death, Frank takes the ultimate step and becomes a Jew... Despite its occasional spark of humanity and its melancholy humor, this is on the whole too grim a picture to have wide appeal.