January 13, 1997 12:00 PM

by Anne Roiphe

The only women who think motherhood is an unalloyed joy have never had children. Simply put, child rearing is both deeply fulfilling and terribly restricting. Drawing on her own experiences, novelist and feminist Anne Roiphe captures well the feeling of ambivalence that many-women have about motherhood. She also argues forcefully that feminists have failed to address how women can be both masters of their own destinies and maternal. Along the way, Roiphe (author of the 1970 novel Up the Sandbox) makes clear that she has seen it all: She was a single parent after divorcing the alcoholic father of her oldest daughter, became a stepmother after marrying for the second time, and is the mother of two other daughters (one of them the writer Katie Roiphe) with her second husband. She found in motherhood both abiding joy (the satisfaction of watching her daughters grow into women whose abilities and opportunities sometimes outstripped her own) and much pain (as, for example, when her eldest daughter was battling heroin and alcohol addiction). She only wishes that the larger society recognized better what the real needs of mothers are, rather than categorizing them as either saints or low-achieving homebodies. It’s a welcome message, embedded in a moving book that will resonate with mothers everywhere. (Houghton-Mifflin, $22.95)

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