John Updike reheats his favorite topics — marriage, adultery, and remarriage — in this pleasant if unsurprising novel. The title refers to the three leafy Northeastern towns where protagonist Owen Mackenzie passes his prosperous, outwardly uneventful life. He grows up in Willow, Pa., only child of a dissatisfied mother and a downtrodden father. In Middle Falls, Conn., he raises four children with the remote, aristocratic Phyllis — and cheats on her with a string of randy local housewives. (Faintly embarrassing, lyrically described sex scenes remain an Updike hallmark.) As the novel closes, Owen is growing old in Haskell’s Crossing, Mass., with his second wife, the bossy, sexy Julia. Perceptive as usual, and cut through with lovely prose, Villages nonetheless falls short of Updike’s adultery classics, 1968’s Couples and 1976’s exquisite Marry Me.
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