I won't repeat what it says on the back of the cover except for the last sentence: "Compulsively readable, propelled by sorrow, rage, and a deep compassion for its characters, this is Roth's masterpiece." Quite.
As far as the plot goes, it's relatively straight forward. Man grows up, marries out of his religion (he doesn't have much of it anyway, neither does she), he is a hard-working, caring husband and father and his teenage daughter is bombing him out of an almost sleepy complacency. He unquestioningly expected life to be good.
But what Roth does with this relatively simple story is truly awe-inspiring. He's taking the reader on twists and turns, surprising us more than once. Deceptively simple, Roth 'allows' the story to unfold seemingly following his protagonists and 'allowing' himself, the writer, to go where they lead him. And the reader feels the pull until it becomes irresistible and almost too painful, but you can't let it go.
One of the most memorable parts (one of many in AMERICAN PASTORAL) is probably, as far as this reader is concerned, when the son's young Catholic bride-to-be is interrogated by her fearsome Jewish potential father-in-law, both clearly more in their respective religious 'grooves' because they were born and bred into them, than because of their religious convictions. The old man in a last-ditch defense of his ground (sure of his authority, his 'rightness', trying to dominate the conversation from the start), and young Mary Dawn Dwyer in a courageous stand-off for the love of his son.
She has the last word: "No. I'm not leaving. I'm not going to go. I'm not a picture, Mr. Levov. I'm myself, I'm Mary Dawn Dwyer of Elizabeth, New Jersey. I'm twenty-two years old. I love your son. That is why I'm here. I love Seymour. I love him. Let's go on, please.
AMERICAN PASTORAL told me more about America, the American dream, and America's contradictions than many a learned essay or historical tome. While I learned, I enjoyed excellent writing and a gripping story.