A dazzling debut novel by the prize-winning author of Yellow, set in the unique and exotic nightworld of Tokyo.
Publishers WeeklyPloughshares editor Lee uses the racial homogeneity of Japan as a stark backdrop to this elegant first novel, a follow-up to his story collection, Yellow. Set in Tokyo in 1980, the book centers on the disappearance of Lisa Countryman, a half-Japanese, half-black Berkeley graduate student who goes to Japan to research the "sad, brutal reign of conformity" for her dissertation and, perhaps more importantly, embark on an identity quest. Her mixed-race background gives her an exotic beauty, and after a teaching job falls through, it lands her a job as a hostess girl at a Tokyo men's club. Echoes of Countryman's identity crisis ring through the lives of all the characters affected by her disappearance. When she vanishes, it is first brought to the attention of Tom Hurley, a vain and careless junior diplomat at the U.S. Embassy who tells people he's Hawaiian, though he's really half-Korean and half-white. The case is turned over to Kenzo Ota, a glum, divorced police inspector, who spent three hard years of his adolescence in Missouri. Convinced that Countryman's case could be just what he needs to put his career back on track, Ota resolves to find out what happened to her. The story of Countryman's time in Japan and her efforts to learn who she is unfolds parallel to Ota's efforts to learn her fate. Through the interlocking stories of Ota, Countryman and Hurley, Lee discourses on race, identity, the Japanese sex trade, social conventions and law. Sharply observed, at turns trenchantly funny and heartbreakingly sad, this novel could be the breakout book for Lee. Agent, Maria Massie, Witherspoon Associates. (July) Forecast: The novel's insights into the Japanese sex industry make it a grittier counterpoint to Memoirs of a Geisha, and its investigations of race and identity might, for some, recall White Teeth. Five-city author tour. Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Library JournalA CIA agent gets in over his head when he investigates a young American woman's disappearance in 1980s Tokyo. This literary thriller from Ploughshares editor Lee is getting a big push, and our reviewer loved it (LJ 2/1/04). Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus ReviewsA handful of restless, intertwining lives in 1980 Tokyo. Tom Hurley, Junior Officer in American Citizens Services at the American Embassy in Tokyo, receives a frantic call from a Richmond, Virginia, woman named Susan Countryman. Susan's sister Lisa, a graduate student in anthropology visiting Tokyo, hasn't contacted home in over a month, and Susan fears foul play. There's not much Tom can do, but he conducts a (fruitless) cursory investigation and gets in touch with the local police, who foist the dull assignment off on obsessive/compulsive Assistant Inspector Kenzo Ota. Lee's narrative jumps from Tom to Kenzo to Lisa, who, out of money and teaching opportunities, takes several hostess jobs at a series of gentlemen's clubs, each shabbier than the last. Womanizing Tom, on the rebound from a fling with coworker Sarah, enters slowly into an affair with bored Julia Tinsley, wife of CIA officer Vincent Kitamura. Their conversations about Lisa's case provide a pretext for growing intimacy, and an accident from which they unwisely flee bonds them in silence. Insomniac Kenzo, at first engaging in psychological warfare with his landlady Saotome over the suitability of his apartment, eventually opts instead to kill her with kindness. Deeper layers of longing and hidden agendas gradually come to the fore. Kenzo's wife left him several years ago and emigrated to America. She's recently returned to Japan with a son named Simon. Realizing the boy must be his, Kenzo begins working out a plan to meet him. Lisa may be working in the clubs not because she's down-and-out, but because she's doing research. Tom, breaking with his usual love-and-leave pattern, falls Julia, becoming more obsessed with her themore ambivalence she displays. Thriller conventions draw the reader, like the characters, into a gallery of human enigmas. First-novelist Lee (Yellow, stories, 2001), the longtime editor of Ploughshares, leaves no fingerprints: his cool, precise prose captures his characters without overexplaining them. Agent: Maria Massie
- Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
- Publication date:
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- Product dimensions:
- 5.60(w) x 8.30(h) x 0.90(d)
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