Utilizing Gross's firsthand knowledge of the country and its way of life, but curiously detached and disjointed, this first novel offers a view of modern Japan in crisis, focusing on the decay of a middle-class Japanese family in which the parents are placed at cross purposes by social conventions and personal needs. Toshio and Nozomi have raised two children to adolescence in comfort, thanks to his increasingly successful ad agency and her complete dedication to household affairs. For Toshio, however, work has become virtually his entire existence--he comes home only to sleep, and then only after carousing around Tokyo with his salarymen and clients. His busy sex life consists of fantasies about women he can rub against on commuter trains, trysts with his female employees, and visits to the ``pink salons'' where appropriate services are rendered. He also uses his wife on occasion, usually when he's drunk. Increasingly resentful of being so taken for granted, Nozomi begins to compare her husband to those of her friends, one of whom is happily pregnant and pampered, while the other's dream of setting up a ``snack,'' a common cafe/bar, has been bankrolled by her spouse. Meanwhile, Toshio hardly acknowledges that he has a family until his son Hideki is selected for the high-school baseball team, thereby participating in a Cinderella story, in which he takes a pitch in the groin to score the winning run. It doesn't help the marital situation, however, and when Toshio stays out all night to celebrate his agency's anniversary, Nozomi leaves him. Despite the finely honed detail of Toshio's workaday existence, with humorous touches and keen insight into national and international business relations, the female perspective is far less convincing and complete. The unbalanced treatment of husband and wife causes the central drama to be played out mostly by inference, and, even allowing for deliberate understatement, it fizzles out well before the end. Strong passages and emotional resonance indicate quality craftsmanship, but ultimately this is a jumble of good impressions rather than a coherent story.