Yet another well-crafted single-subject essay collection, this one about the difficulties of becoming parents. Poet Bialosky and novelist Schulman (Out of Time, 1991, etc.) have assembled the works of 22 writers that reveal how for them, like many who have the natural desire for children, ""things don't come as easily or as quickly as we once imagined they would."" They show that the obstacles touch families of all kinds, including straight, gay, step-families, and single parents, and spring from several sources--postponement of pregnancy, a late marriage, no marriage, adoption agency horrors. For Bob Shacochis, the issue is in the couple's inability to conceive; for Steve Byrnes, it's surrogacy for a same-sex family; for Tama Janowitz, it's an adoption in China; for Phillip Lopate, it's a young daughter's chronic illness; for Bialosky, it's honoring two infant deaths. Some tales are harrowing, some joyful; but none are simple. And all, no matter the situation, incorporate Barbara Jones's observation about parental obsession--that ""once you have thought of her as yours . . . nothing will stop you from wanting her. And only some terrible force outside of your control will prevent you from having her."" Yet despite the diversity in experience and notion of family, there are similarities of age and outlook that readers may find either reassuring or redundant. These works hold the views of a reflective middle age. Just as similar are the narrators: Articulate, analytical, they often live hand-to-mouth and keep odd schedules--why, they're writers! Anyone looking for the experiences of a lawyer or sales clerk will have to wait for an oral history or an afternoon talk show. For those in prime parenting years who have faced such trials, these are voices of comfort and wonder.