An impressive debut. Mandy Charny, 20, is a Sarah Lawrence student and a tyro writer; but for the last five years, since junior high, her most time-consuming occupation has been as lover of lake Rinehart, who--besides nostalgically liking bob disk-jockey Symphony Sid and eccentric humor and old movies--is in love with easeful death. . . his own. HIS suicide attempts have come as regular as clockwork--and have eventually sucked all the air out of Mandy's life and her love. Robbed of her girlhood, all she has is the simple expectation of lake's one-of-these-days death: ""Jake wants to be a skeleton. A corpse. A stiff. A dead person. Dead. I want to be a poet or maybe a college professor. And lake wants to be a dead person. Can this marriage be saved?"" Mandy makes desperate, ineffectual stabs at evading the shrinking margin of lake's eventual suicide--she has a casual affair, goes to a writers' conference one summer--but the morbid promise won't be denied. Singer's style is sometimes a little overly pregnant, and Jake never really comes across as anything but what Mandy sees him as: a crucible of his indelible fate. But this is nonetheless a very accomplished first novel--the eye is sharp, charitable, sentimental when need be, unfudging. Mandy's insularity and loneliness (is this what we grow up for?) are skillfully posited, then let be. And the test of a book like this, of course, is the death--which here is properly wrenching. A major first novel.