Picks and Pans Review: A Perfect Arrangement

updated 06/11/2001 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 06/11/2001 AT 01:00 AM EDT

By Suzanne Berne

Mirella Cook-Goldman's life is a mess. The Massachusetts lawyer's live-in babysitter has just quit, her architect husband can't pick up the slack, and, oh yeah, she might be pregnant again. So when nanny Randi Gill shows up with glowing recommendations and recipes for reduced-fat goodies near the start of this moving novel, Mirella believes her prayers have been answered.

But as Randi insinuates herself ever deeper into the household, the cracks in Cook-Goldman's marriage begin to widen. And much as she'd like to, Mirella finds it increasingly difficult to ignore the role her domestic paragon may be playing.

Berne, a mother of two, nails the messy domesticity that resides where Martha Stewart fears to tread. But this thought-provoking tale concludes that for all its drains, strains and heartaches, Mirella's is a world worth loving. (Algonquin, $23.95)

Bottom Line: Eloquent slice of domestic life

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