This is a grey, insistently toneless novel concerning some flat, dead people of Duluth, Minn. Eddie Cement, at sixteen, runs away from home when his mother dies, but not before accusing his father of killing her by his philandering. Eddie works as a salesman for Kaufholtz Building Supplies until he's 34. During this period, he keeps his eye on the ball, tries to do the right thing at all times, studies etiquette, and even dips into Shakespeare because it's expected. At 34, Eddie Cement is literally worth his weight in cement -- he is an unbearably self-contained provincial. Cracks begin appearing, however, when he falls in love with Elizabeth, a schoolteacher, who is also the boss's niece and owns one third of the company. Eddie finds himself behaving inexplicably, drinking more, and being drawn into the Kaufholtz family. He is promoted to a managership; money appears. He and Elizabeth honeymoon in Florida, where Eddie finally confronts his father who is too vividly full of vinegar for Eddie to take. But, indications are that Eddie, too, will become a philanderer, his ""humanization"". Eddie is well-drawn but the story has no bite; it's merely objective.