Books: Custody the Good Mother

by Sue Miller Harper & Row; 310 pages; $17.95

This first novel by a previously unknown author has managed to climb quickly onto best-seller lists. Such a feat is infrequent enough to prompt the question why. True, The Good Mother garnered some enthusiastic reviews, and the publisher, evidently sensing a winner, launched a barrage of advertising and publicity. But if this sort of support automatically spelled success, the nation would be crawling with best sellers. Genuine word-of-mouth, pass-along reader enthusiasm cannot be sustained by ads alone. Books that seemingly come out of nowhere to capture wide audiences do so primarily because they offer exactly what a considerable number of people...

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