BOOKS: Mom's Horror

A novel about a good parent accused of child molesting

Anyone who has given hostages to fortune by marrying and having children knows ! that the normal 3 a.m. horrors take on an astonishing new awfulness under those conditions. Nightmares of the crippling disease, the car crash, the sociopath bedevil the spouse and parent. And they do so, for some reason, in perverse proportion to how healthy, loving and prosperous a family really is.

Though it is not explicitly acknowledged, this torment seems to have been the inspiration for A Map of the World (Doubleday; 390 pages; $22), a mischievous and unsettling marital melodrama by Jane Hamilton, whose first novel, The...

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