Letting Go is Roth's first full-length novel, published just after Goodbye, Columbus, when he was twenty-nine. Set in 1950s Chicago, New York, and Iowa city, Letting Go presents as brilliant a fictional portrait as we have of a mid-century America defined by social and ethical constraints and by moral compulsions conspicuously different from those of today.
Newly discharged from the Korean War army, reeling from his mother's recent death, freed from old attachments and hungrily seeking others, Gabe Wallach is drawn to Paul Herz, a fellow graduate student in literature, and to Libby, Paul's moody, intense wife. Gabe's desire to be connected to the ordered "world of feeling" that he finds in books is first tested vicariously by the anarchy of the Herzes' struggles with responsible adulthood and then by his own eager love affairs. Driven by the desire to live seriously and act generously, Gabe meets an impassable test in the person of Martha Reganhart, a spirited, outspoken, divorced mother of two, a formidable woman who, according to critic James Atlas, is masterfully portrayed with "depth and resonance."
The complex liason between Gabe and Martha and Gabe's moral enthusiasm for the trials of others are at the heart of this tragically comic work.
About the Author
Philip Roth is one of the most decorated writers in American history, having won the National Book Critics Circle Award twice, the PEN/Faulkner Award three times, the National Book Award, the Pulitzer Prize in fiction, and many more. He also won the Ambassador Book Award of the English-Speaking Union and in the same year received the National Medal of Arts at the White House. In 2001 he received the highest award of the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the Gold Medal in Fiction, given every six years "for the entire work of the recipient."
"A first novel of awesome maturity." —James Atlas
"A rich book, full of incident, wry and sad and even in its most desolating scene somehow amusing." —Elizabeth Hardwick, Harper's
"[Roth] has the finest eye for the details of American life since Sinclair Lewis." —Stanley Edgar Hyman