In this charming, witty novel, Zigman creates an amusing fairy tale from that common nightmare for 30-something women: hearing a louder tick-tock from their biological clock. From the outside, Ellen Franck's life looks enviable. Good upbringing and education: check. Great job as marketing director for Donna Karan-esque designer: check. Cool apartment in Manhattan: check. Trendy boyfriend: check. The only problem is that she hates her job and longs for a child to fill the big hole in her life.

Ellen is one of those striving, successful, young, easy-to-resent New Yorkers, but Zigman won't let us resent her. Ellen's heartfelt longing to share her life with a child seems utterly sincere and far from stereotypical.

Ellen's warmth and self-deprecating nature win fans from the first page, when she observes that she'd like Big Bird to parent her first child, because he's warm. He's affectionate. He's had a stable job for as long as I remember. Unfortunately, Ellen is not dating Big Bird, but an emotionally frozen, middle-aged college professor who can't heal from the death of his seven-year-old child. The yearning for a child taunts her everywhere: in strollers in the park, at work with her reluctantly pregnant boss, and at her sister's house, where The Pickle lives. Ellen has adored her sister's toddler since she was born, and the more time Auntie La-La and The Pickle spend together, the more certain Ellen is that a child is what she's missing. The Pickle is an angelic presence guiding Ellen's decisions for the first two trimesters of the book (yes, there are three sections).

When Ellen meets up with an old classmate who shares her suffering, they agree that if they haven't met the partner of their dreams within a year, they'll find sperm donors. But until that aptly chosen deadline of Labor Day, Ellen must recharge her stalled relationship, plan a baby shower for her jaded and far-from-motherly boss, and greet her sister's latest baby news without a twinge.

Zigman, who won fans with her debut novel Animal Husbandry, has created a droll, winning story for anyone who's ever wondered if a child is in their future.

Deanna Larson writes from Nashville.

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