The Lie takes place in the late 1940s through the 1950s. It begins in the rain on a park bench in Philadelphia’s Rittenhouse Square when Solomon Columbus joins Ramona Smollens. She is in mourning and dealing with her father’s recent death. Although they have just met, she takes Solomon home and hides with him in the attic of her mother’s house for four days, after which they marry. As a girl, Ramona emulated Rita Hayworth, dyeing her hair red and wearing it in her style. After her marriage she becomes obsessed with the thought that her husband is having an affair with Miss Hayworth, who Ramona believes is hiding in their apartment. Ramona dwells on the imagined affair between Solomon and Miss Hayworth so much that we learn only in passing that Solomon and Ramona have a son. This obsession is clearly destructive.
Ms. Wagman has written The Lie from Ramona’s point of view. In fact, until the last chapter, the story is related entirely in Ramona’s head in a stream-of-consciousness style. Although Ramona’s life before her father’s death was a horror of fear and abuse, it is difficult to feel sympathy for her since we only see her as she sees herself, which is a totally unrealistic viewpoint.