I have lived my life just missing. . . . A myopic shooter, my sight lines are always skewed."" In this scouring, tensile first novel, Manhattan-raised Susan Warner, daughter of Holocaust survivors who committed suicide, rummages for a firm ground, a psychic core--in a live savaged by her parents' grief and bitterness, their obliterating deaths, and her own restless lust for intimacy and connection. ""My body has never been my enemy. . . . This is not the case with my mind. . . . I want to be loved, liked, stroked, telephoned, listened to, wined, dined, adored, respected--to be central."" So Susan looks for a center in a cause--that of persecuted Russian-Jewish violinist Leonid Rabinovitz; and, while packing to leave on a rescue mission to Leningrad, she recalls her problematic past. Her father, who always advised her to be an ""observer,"" not a participant. Her mother's tales, miasmic with grief and horror. Ex-husband Sam, whose dullness and kindness were a shield against Susan's emotional jagged edges. Her lover, married lawyer Jason, who withdrew when Susan, seeing the promise of ""centrality"" in all-consuming sex, became obsessed with him. (""Obsessed people are ridiculous. . . . There are no dignified obsessions."") And the lure of suicide that came with the loss of Jason: ""I would be reunited at last with my own kind."" Now, however, having revived at the last minute and lied her way out of a mental ward, Susan works for the International Committee for Soviet Jews. And, in the wake of dissident violinist Rabinovitz's probably-doomed gestures, Susan finds a simple truth, something real that ""transcends the disarray of my life"": she plans her mission to Leningrad--where there are people to save, and a Jewish family-history that Susan is now ready to accept. Notwithstanding some hammering excesses (especially in the shrill, push-button sex scenes): a tough debut, full of punishing punch and wiry movement, by a promising talent.