A busily quilted chronicle of 14 good little women who coaxed, cajoled, or tormented their sons into the Presidency of the United States, with brief mentions of the rest. A few patterns begin to emerge, though they are only saluted in passing--most of the mothers are women of uncommon education, religious fervor, and ambition sublimated to their menfolks' needs. The overwhelming majority of the portraits are of 20th-century figures, but the more interesting are the more remote historically--the hauntingly mysterious Nancy Hanks Lincoln and the snortingly no-nonsense Louise Taft, for example. Each of the sketches is necessarily brief and the narrative offers a paucity of psychological insights into the mothers themselves. Frequently (as in the cases of Lillian Carter and Rose Kennedy) the personal relationship between mother and president is all but ignored, and the exact nature of the purportedly spectacular influence remains a puzzle. The book prefers to hammer away instead at diverting details, how the mother was wooed and won in her youth, where the family moved when the future president was only three, etc. Life at the surface, and nothing new over the son.