BOOKS: 3-D Mother

Anna Quindlen's second novel asks if parents can be people

Halfway through her powerfully affecting novel One True Thing (Random House; 289 pages; $22), Anna Quindlen pauses, swabs her forehead with a bandanna (so the wrung-out reader imagines) and sums up: "Our parents are never people to us, never, they're always character traits, Achilles' heels, dim nightmares, vocal tics, bad noses, hot tears, all handed down and us stuck with them."

These brooding half-truths are the night thoughts of Ellen Gulden, a brilliant, self-absorbed and slightly chilly young woman who goes home grudgingly from a promising magazine job in Manhattan to tend her dying mother. She's the only acceptable nurse. Her...

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