The heroine of Marge Piercy's Three Women is something of a feminist trailblazer: the first woman to teach constitutional law at her big-city university. At five feet three inches, however, Suzanne Blume feels "too small for her role in the world." To compensate, this pint-sized divorcee has transformed herself into a human dynamo, obsessively slicing and dicing the time she devotes to her mother, her two daughters, her students, and her e-mail boyfriend. Yet this rigorously arranged world is turned upside down when her problematic older daughter moves in, followed by her stubborn, ailing mother.
Suzanne's addiction to the clock infuriates her offspring--indeed, Elena has deliberately "chosen to go to the other extreme, exalting spontaneity." And her mother, Beverly, remains a fiery, left-wing activist to the end, spurning such bourgeois amenities as the datebook. It's the ultimate challenge, then, for these three women to peacefully cohabit. What's worse, they're beset by a series of calamities, some shocking, some mundane. Yet this high-tension ménage à trois ultimately learns the value of mutual support and familial love. And along the way, Piercy plunges right into the deepest, most elemental stuff of life: sex, betrayal, aging, illness, and death. She's both brave and compassionate in her exploration of the volatile ground between mothers and daughters--but no less brave than the characters she has created. By the time you finish reading Piercy's 15th novel, you'll find it difficult to leave the Blumes to their own, unmistakably feminine devices. --Laura Mirsky