Books: Karma in The Sunbelt S.

by John Updike Knopf; 288 pages; $17.95

In Roger's Version (1986), John Updike constructed a plot with some teasing but unacknowledged similarities to Nathaniel Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter: an unfrocked New England minister named Roger broods over the infidelity of his wife. This time out, the author makes his indebtedness perfectly clear. S., Updike's 32nd book and 13th novel, opens with two quotations from The Scarlet Letter and with a heroine who is an unmistakable incarnation of Hester Prynne, the most famous adulteress in American literature. Sarah Worth (nee Price) boasts a Prynne among her ancestors and, like Hester, a daughter named Pearl. This mother too is a...

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