January 10, 1994 12:00 PM

by Naomi Jadd, with Bud Schaetzle

Any book that uses song titles for chapter names runs the danger of being saccharine. And—no surprise—Naomi Judd’s autobiography is full of the dogged optimism and irrepressible cuteness that marked her years as half of one of the most successful duos in country-music history. (Sometimes she anonymously hums Jesus Loves Me on daughter Wynonna’s answering machine.)

But to her credit Naomi isn’t afraid to bare the more discordant moments in the struggle that took her from rural Kentucky to country music’s Mount Olympus. She writes of contemplating suicide when, at age 17 and unmarried, she became pregnant with Wynonna; about her guilt at the impoverished life her two daughters lived as she pursued her dream; and about her first experience smoking marijuana. Included, too, are details of her rape by an abusive friend, her tumultuous relationship with current husband Larry Strickland (she once fired a .38 over his head when she became suspicious of his many road-trip liaisons) and her enduring faith, which she credits with helping her beat the liver disease that put an end to her singing career. (The disease is now in remission.)

Naomi says she’s telling the family’s story to offer readers “living proof that it pays to believe in miracles. In our struggles and triumphs,” she writes, “you glimpse the prospect of your own.” Hokey? Definitely. But with her words, as with her music, Naomi has a way of making you believe. (Villard, $24)

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