October 28, 2002 12:00 PM

By Allison Pearson

Kate Reddy, working mother, watches the financial markets for a living. But her London home life is more frenzied than the NASDAQ. When not tracking investments, she bounces among two small children, an architect husband, a nanny, assorted coworkers, friends and in-laws. At the outset of the book she’s trying to make store-bought tarts look homemade (tip: use a rolling pin) at 1:37 a.m. Her “must remember” list is a jumble of frustrations: “Cut Ben’s nails. Xmas thank-you letters? …Ben birthday—find Teletubbies cake…not seen brill new film—Magic Tiger, Puffing Dragon.”

In her first novel, Pearson, a columnist for London’s Evening Standard, wittily gives voice to the pull of progeny and partners, the longing for escape (Kate allows herself an e-mail flirtation with a sensitive American exec) and the fierce devotion to her children that tops every working mother’s list. The stay-at-home moms Kate calls the “Muffia” sneer the book’s title sarcastically, but Reddy makes us laugh and wince as she struggles for air. (Knopf, $23)

Bottom Line: She does it very well

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