The best so far of the recent spate of ""this is what 50 is like"" books from women leading the Baby Boomers into middle age. Although Dowling (You Mean I Don't Have to Feel This Way, 1991; The Cinderella Complex, not reviewed; etc.) suffers from her generation's smug conviction that life before the Boomers was politically and culturally static, she doesn't let self-satisfaction stand in the way of assessing a woman's life after 50 with penetrating honesty. In fact, as she points out, the Boomers are the first generation to peer over their reading glasses into the future and know they will likely live into their 80s and perhaps beyond. Dowling looks at the problems this will create for women and comes up with a scenario that is optimistic without deteriorating into vacuous cheerleading. The book is organized around eight ""choice points,"" issues that women face as they round the half-century mark, including social barriers, aging parents, the beauty myth, work, love, sex, money, and hormone replacement therapy. Anecdotal evidence is backed with solid research bolstering Dowling's various arguments. For instance, so convinced is she of the value of hormone therapy--she views opposition as either political or medically misguided--that ""Estrogen Wars"" is the longest chapter in the book. Dowling contends effectively that it is an indispensable tool in dealing with the physical, mental, and emotional changes that many, if not most, postmenopausal women suffer. Nor does she gloss over the problems that aging women face in finding sex partners, negotiating promotions, and putting a secure financial future in place. One stumbling point: the ""fictionalized"" group of Mamas, a device used to introduce various midlife issues. Vivid, lively, and informative, with a secure grip on reality combined with a conviction that, at 50 and beyond, not only is the glass half full, it's ready for a refill.