Picks and Pans Review: How to Manage Your Mother

updated 08/07/2000 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 08/07/2000 AT 01:00 AM EDT

by Alyce Faye Cleese and Brian Bates

In psychoanalysis, the joke goes, if it's not one thing, it's your mother. In this lucid, no-nonsense volume, London psychotherapist Cleese—wife of Monty Python alum John Cleese—and Bates, an academic, serve up strategies to cope with the full spectrum of problem moms, from smothering to hypercritical to chilly. They illuminate their advice with anecdotes from patients and celebs such as Mia Farrow, Lauren Hutton, Mike Nichols and Stephen Sondheim. Some tales are humorous—Colin Powell says his mother worried he wouldn't amount to anything ("No one goes into the Army!" she told him)—while others are more troubling: Nichols describes his mom as "a master of guilt"; John Cleese says his usually icy mother flew into panics whenever he got upset, leaving him with a lifelong reluctance to seek help from others. But Cleese and Bates don't suggest blaming Mom for all woes. In fact, they repeatedly urge trying to see things from her point of view. Their book is less about managing your mother than about managing yourself—and learning to recognize Mom as a fellow adult with human failings. (HarperCollins/ReganBooks, $24)

Bottom Line: Hope springs maternal

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