Books: Making Amends Expensive Habits

by Maureen Howard Simon & Schuster; 298 pages; $17.95

At 45, a celebrated writer named Margaret Flood receives the news that her heart is damaged and her days numbered. This death sentence concentrates her mind wonderfully. She first thinks, naturally, of herself, "a sick woman in her middle years, betrayed by one man, abandoned by another." But as she retreats from the hospital into her aerie of an apartment overlooking Central Park, Margaret moves beyond present distress toward memories of the people who have helped to make her what she has become: a successful, solitary, dying woman.

Maureen Howard's fifth novel offers far less bitterness than its premise promises. Her...

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