We come so heartbreakingly close to doing whatever it is we ought to do,"" Gould writes in this searching, original disquisition. These honest observations about her various roles--daughter, wife, widow, mother, grandmother--are frequently affecting, and present complex, sometimes stormy relationships in freely tuned detail. Gould's husband Martin dies near the start, her mother near the close of these loosely linked ruminations. Toward her husband she experiences a deepening of feeling (""Am I compelled to stop loving a man just because he's dead?"") and finds her status changed not only in the eyes of even close friends, but also in her own: ""I'm turning myself into the sort of woman that Martin would have wanted to marry in the first place."" Toward her mother, Marion, she is far less generous, capturing the essence of their burdensome formality, their years of mutual disappointment, over and over. ""I don't have a mom,"" just a Mother, she realizes: Marion saves restaurant chopsticks and plastic rainbonnets but none of her daughter's writings. On her side, not even sudden notice of her mother's own longings prompts her to take a first step (""Habit is a feeling stronger than feeling""); she continues to fuss about Marion's robe, neglecting possible cancer and apparent depression. Gould shares intimate moments with her daughter (""I've been raising the mother I always wanted to have""), is surprised by her older son's separation, endures her teenager's stretch for independence, and finds joy in a first grandchild (""I am the other woman in her life""). For the most part, she also presses beyond such familiar kinds of observations and discovers the darker tones, the unflattering underside--competitive friends, snobby partner's wife, blundering mother. Though readers may resist some of her more prickly conclusions, they will admire her prose style--she's a gifted writer--and value her psychological discriminations.