Philip Roth's twenty-seventh book takes its title from an anonymous fifteenth-century English allegorical play whose drama centres on the summoning of the living to death and whose hero, Everyman, is intended to be the personification of mankind.
The fate of Roth's Everyman is traced from his first shocking confrontation with death on the idyllic beaches of his childhood summers and during his hospitalisation as a nine-year-old surgical patient through the crises of health that come close to killing him as a vigorous adult, and into his old age, when he is undone by the death and deterioration of his contemporaries and relentlessly stalked by his own menacing physical woes. A successful commercial advertising artist with a New York ad agency, he is the father of two sons who despise him and a daughter who adores him, the beloved brother of a good man whose physical well-being comes to arouse his bitter envy, and the lonely ex-husband of three very different women with whom he's made a mess of marriage.
Everyman is a painful human story of the regret and loss and stoicism of a man who becomes what he does not want to be. The terrain of this savagely sad short novel is the human body, and its subject is the common experience that terrifies us all.