cover image Mothers


Gloria Goldreich. Little Brown and Company, $18.95 (439pp) ISBN 978-0-316-31936-2

Goldreich ( Leah's Journey ) strains her skills in this ungainly novel about surrogate motherhood. Prosperous suburbanites David and Nina Roth, and Hildy, Nina's daughter from a previous marriage, are a happy family until David, haunted by the memory of the Holocaust and his late father's admonition that ``where life continues, death is denied,'' becomes obsessed with fathering a child--even though Nina can no longer conceive. The Roths persuade Stacey Cosgrove, a mother of three, to bear David's baby in return for a large fee that Stacey hopes will give her irresponsible husband a new start in California. The overblown narrative plods along with interesting detail but no real conflicts until the death of Stacey's own daughter skewers everybody's plans. Goldreich coats the controversial issues here in bathetic prose (of mothers grouped in a playground: ``They cake their faces with pressed powder to conceal their red eyes and the tracks of tears that fall so often and so suddenly''); her characters are too schematized and her plot devices too implausible to be either affecting or insightful. (Oct.)