FORGIVING by Shelley List


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Lacking the lively, punchy ethnicity of List's previous fiction, this is the rather whiny story of a successful photo-journalist who, while researching child molestation and incest for a magazine article, wrestles with uncomfortable love/sex feelings about her own childhood. Naomi Lazarus Loeffler, 35, divorced from dull Hank, feels alive only in her work. Why can't she have reviving sex? Why can't she give love? And why, in Cannes, did she choose to sleep with Stan--he of the pinky ring and big belly, her father's friend and contemporary? Naomi glooms, too, about her family: ""portly, powerful Sol,"" her beloved Daddy who now embarrasses her by loud behavior in restaurants; elegant, demanding mother Esther; and divorced sister Rebecca who's eating herself into obesity. (The only bright note is Becky's child Janie.) But then comes garrulous Matthew Johnson, author and ""explorer extraordinaire,"" whom Naomi has been sent to interview: it's love--even if Matthew's uninterested in marriage. Naomi, however, is being nagged by jealousy, by distracting memories churned up by her kiddie porn research. She questions police and looks at all the horrific photographs, listens to testimony from adult victims, sits in on rap groups, interviews the founder of an incest-victim group, collects clinical information by a court psychiatrist. And Naomi's then suddenly jolted into her past with Sol: did he or didn't he? Was she unconsciously flirting? Etc. But only after Sol's stroke, a long talk, and a mother/daughter reconciliation will Naomi finally pull herself together. Some sound, if now-familiar clinical info on child abuse and incest--yet, despite all the verbal, selfobsessed avoirdupois bouncing around (""There is a softness under the veneer, under that running-around, crazy, driving wind of you""), there's not much psychic flesh on the hortatory bones of generally soporific people and dialogue.

Pub Date: Sept. 21st, 1982
Publisher: Dutton