Each year in Wendover, Massachusetts, a man under forty is singled out for his special contribution to the town and he is called the Young Man of the Year. This year the choice has been reduced to four: manufacturer, Walter Cummer; Dr. Hank Rush, an unmannerly but gifted surgeon; Mort Levine, a Jewish merchant who has been ""accepted"" by the old New England town; and lawyer Seth Brewster, representative of the Old Guard. Ironically, the reason each man has been selected might also be the reason why he would be rejected. The wives play an equally important part in the contest and the pressure of events reveals something not only about the men and their careers but about their marriages too. Celia Rush and Jan Cummer are most evenly matched, both being social climbers, dedicated to the furtherance of their husbands' careers. Frandy Levine, a Christian needlessly apologetic for Mort, is too hysterical to be serious opposition. And Kate Brewster, a New York sculptress, has gotten the reputation of being stand- offish. The most likely, if despicable, couple -- the Cummers, do win but before that finale the marital situations of the four have been shaken-up if not exposed and in some cases the exposure has proved to be a curative. The picture the author paints of upper-middle-class, status conscious small town life is a particularly nasty one but there is no question that she has accurately impaled the most dislikable characteristics of a certain group of people who can be found in the most ""acceptable"" of places.