One of Australia's acclaimed young writers, first novelist Perlman explores the conundrums of conscience in one man's desire to understand his place as a husband, father and complicated human being amid late capitalism's ever-escalating pressure. Idealistic, intelligent Eddie Harnovey, a 38-year-old chemical engineer, tells his life story from boyhood through college years to the present. Eddie's narrative revolves largely around the women in his life: his childhood love, the beautiful, privileged Amanda, pops into his world every nine and a half years to bewilder him; his brilliant wife, Tanya, a passionate, quixotic academic, is plagued by bouts of depression; their precocious daughter, Abby, raises the stakes on every decision Eddie makes. After a soulful, progressive youth, Eddie has wound up working for a government agency in Melbourne, where he struggles to maintain his integrity and provide for his family in an increasingly hostile corporate world. When he loses his job, he finds himself with only three dollars to his name, about to lose his house and on the edge of terror. He gets survival lessons from an unexpected source, and then, after brute accident and violence signal the end for him, salvation occurs because of his own previous decency and kindness. Eddie's blend of self-deprecating wit, caustic social comment, spirited sensitivity and big heart carries the narrative in beautifully controlled passages that brim with insight, humor and feeling. His world is rich with the pleasures and pains of love, family, friendship and marriage, and the supporting characters in this prize-winning narrative are smart and likable; some are unabashedly erudite, facilitating entertaining philosophical debate. Perlman's sheer storytelling virtuosity gives this essentially domestic tale the narrative drive of a thriller and the unforgettable radiance of a novel that accurately reflects essential human values. (June) FYI: Melbourne's newspaper The Age awarded this novel its best fiction award for 1998, and named it as the Best Book of the Year. It also won the Best Book of the Year award from the Fellowship of Australian Writers. Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.