August 18, 1997 12:00 PM

by Fredrica Wagman

This slender novel (117 pages) can easily be read in one sitting, during which the title character comes and goes like someone in a dream. The narrator, a poor Philadelphia girl named Marty Fish, begins her tale the day she is introduced to her fabulously wealthy future mother-in-law, Golda Hornstien, and ends it decades later when she herself has become the family matriarch. In between we are given a familiar tale of female bonding and rivalry as Marty comes to understand the sadness beneath the old woman’s suffocating bluster and learns age-old lessons about loss and renewal. Mrs. Hornstien feels like a Danielle Steel miniseries crunched into an hour-long show—it hasn’t any more insight, and it’s a lot less fun. (Holt, $14.95)

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