January 27, 1997 12:00 PM

by Alex Witchel

This slender memoir about the distaff half of Witchel’s family grew out of a series in The New York Times, where she writes profiles for the Home and Living sections. Witchel is often sharp and witty in the paper, but she loses something in the translation here. This mix of anecdotes and reflections about her mother and younger sister (each chapter recalls an adventure—a wedding, a trip to Ellis Island, a night at a luxe hotel—made by the three women) is pleasant but disappointingly light.

Witchel comes off best when she chucks the Jewish humor and waxes sweet about her mother, Barbara, a can-do college professor who is also family savior, stoic and maker of sublime tuna sandwiches. Of course, Mom isn’t perfect; a die-hard Trekker, she is swept away by an unctuous William Shatner when she tags along with Witchel to an interview. If only Girls Only had more moments like those. (Random House, $23)

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