Picks and Pans Review: The Rest of Us: Dispatches from the Mother Ship

updated 12/08/1997 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 12/08/1997 AT 01:00 AM EST

by Jacquelyn Mitchard

Before she wrote The Deep End of the Ocean, before it became the first selection of Oprah's Book Club, before Jacquelyn Mitchard became a bestselling author, she had been a weekly columnist at The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel. So it is natural to approach this collection of her columns with some skepticism. Chronicling the ups and downs of her life as a working mother, Mitchard at first comes off as a cross between author Joyce Maynard and former New York Times columnist Anna Quindlen—a blandly sensible, predictably liberal sort who roots for good (courage, politeness, garage sales), boos the bad (guns, rudeness, teenage drinking) and is at her snippiest griping about Martha Stewart's tips to moms that they use colored pens, paper cutouts and varnish to spruce up their kids' lunch boxes. But something about Mitchard—one could call it grace—grows on you. She mines her children's lives without exposing or exploiting them; she writes about her husband's premature death without displaying rage or inspiring pity; she exults in a perfectly ordinary, perfectly splendid day without mawkishness. And bully for Mitchard that she's still plugging away (her column is now nationally syndicated). Few are her equal in illuminating the personal stake we all have in the daily business of living. (Viking, $23.95)

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