Nemesis explores the effect of a 1944 polio epidemic on a closely knit, family-oriented Newark Jewish community of Weequahic (which is where he grew up and the location of other Roth novels). The children are threatened with maiming, paralysis, lifelong disability, and death.
At the center of Nemesis is a vigorous, dutiful, 23-year-old teacher and playground director Bucky Cantor, a javelin thrower and weightlifter, who is devoted to his charges. Bucky feels guilty because his weak eyes have excluded him from serving in the war alongside his close friends and contemporaries. Focusing on Cantor's dilemmas as polio begins to ravage his playground, Roth examines some of the central themes of pestilence: fear, panic, anger, guilt, bewilderment, suffering, and pain.
Roth is one of the most awarded U.S. writers of his generation: his books have twice received the National Book Award, twice the National Book Critics Circle award, and three times the PEN/Faulkner Award. He received a Pulitzer Prizefor his 1997 novel, American Pastoral.
Roth has stated that this novel, from 2010, would be his last. So we might as well read it.