SALARYMAN by Meg Pei

SALARYMAN

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KIRKUS REVIEW

 Despite the title, some corroborative details, and Japanese protagonists, this first novel is more about Everyman in a Gray Flannel Suit than the product of a specific culture. Jun Shimada, the illegitimate son of a hotel maid and a famous Japanese poet who committed suicide, joins the Yamamoto Corporation, the number-five electronics corporation in the world, because ``having such a cloudy background, I felt driven to prove myself as levelheaded, a doer, not a quivering intellectual like my father.'' At first, Jun enjoys the work; he marries the vaguely artistic Taeko; and starts his corporate ascent. But a promotional transfer to New York begins the unraveling both of Jun and his marriage. Unable to speak English, and isolated in suburbia, Taeko has an affair with her Japanese doctor. Meanwhile, Jun, increasingly frustrated by the stifling corporate atmosphere and his role as the boss's personal flunky, begins drinking heavily and has an affair with a young woman in Chicago, where he travels frequently on business. When Taeko takes their children back to Japan and files for divorce, Jun finally falls apart. Sent to dry out in a center in Quebec run by a Japanese business association, Jun has his moment of epiphany. He comes back to Chicago sober, finds work as a translator and sous-chef--he has always had a desire to cook--and settles down to write his letter of resignation. Taeko, now a serious artist, pays a surprise visit, and all ends on a high note. A well-written and affectingly old-fashioned story, with contemporary nuances and multicultural themes, but lacking the transforming personal or ethnic resonance that the publisher claims for it.

Pub Date: May 1st, 1992
ISBN: 0-670-83979-5
Page count: 304pp
Publisher: Viking
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15th, 1992