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As in Mr. Jack and the Greenstalks (this generation's best garment-center novel, 1970), Horowitz again sketches out lives intensely lived within a small frame; here it's a decade-by-decade monitoring of five Long Island, New York, families from 1948-1978--a lushly autumnal overview of Americans now in their fifties, children of immigrants and the Depression for whom the secure Good Life became tarnished . . . and turned out to be all wrong for their children. ""All of us moved into a housing development. . . on flat potato land, as and we called it paradise. . . . We were Catholic. We were Jews. Schnooks. Victims always."" Five couples move to Levittown on G.I. mortgages in 1948, but over the years this Eden coarsens: marriages crumple or just grow old; attempts to do the right thing (civil rights, etc.) fail; parents are defeated by incomprehensible children; new freedoms and lifestyles will leave their mark. Loretta, finally knowing the crux of her loathing of plodding husband Joe, leaves for a painting career and lesbian relationship. Corinne, who once aspired to be a nightclub pianist and who tolerated crude husband Lionel only in bed, at last accepts her son's homosexuality. Cynthia, who has never lost her admiration for cool, elegant husband Sandy, confronts a mÉnage à trois of her own designing. And two other marriages will deepen with the sobering astringency of time's deprivations and tragedy (a son killed in Vietnam). There's only one artificially contrived sequence here: in the 1965-72 section the women--""overready, ripe, aging fast""--attempt to reach out, thanks to Aaron Rothstein, an exteacher in the local schools who brings them great books and individual illuminations; but Aaron at last will trade his honesty for affection (as the third member of Cynthia's household.) Otherwise, Horowitz tells it all with edged directness, with enough recognitions and acute zoom-lens views to point to what this beleaguered generation is all about. Sentimental, yes, but it can break your heart.

Pub Date: May 12th, 1980
Publisher: Marek--dist. by Putnam