cover image White Lies

White Lies

Julie Salamon / Author Lawrence Hill Books $16.95 (259p) ISBN

Jamaica Just, the main character in this first novel by the movie critic for the Wall Street Journal, is a young feature writer for the fictional New York Observer and is married to wholesome, affectionate Sammy. Named for the part of Queens, N.Y., in which she was conceived, Jamaica seems to lead an enviable lifeat least others tell her she doesbut she suffers from a listless guilt that derives from being the child of Holocaust survivors. (""I'm a nothing, a cipher,'' she says. ``You think I could have lasted a minute in Auschwitz? I'm a weak-kneedstet no comma lily-livered nothing.'') Most of the narrative consists of Jamaica's ruminations on her childhood, her conflicting feelings for her parents, her concern for the homeless, her contempt for her sleazy boss. There are also references to various story assignments (a brief excerpt from one about growing up in a Holocaust survivor's family is the most effective writing in the book) and some inside Journal allusions and other odd jokes. The focus here is Jamaica's obsessive self-pity, which doesn't wane until the last page of the book, when from an unlikely source she learns about a tragic wartime event that explains her father's frequent silent rages. Unfortunately, the cathartic moment comes late and is described in typically cliched fashion. (January 21)