Banish any preconceived notions of apple-cheeked sweethearts cranking out Toll House cookies. Some of the grannies depicted in the new anthology <B>In My Grandmother's House: Award-Winning Authors Tell Stories About Their Grandmothers</B> are warm and inspirational in the classic mold; others are distant; and some are downright hateful. This collection of a dozen tales, all by women, offers a broad education in the infinite variety that is grandmotherhood. Alternately delightful and disturbing, these glimpses are powerful in the aggregate. Tellingly, Bonnie Christensen, who instigated the anthology and contributes a story called "The Fairy Grandmother," had a peach of a granny, who placed fun far above neatness and, well into her 80s, delighted in performing "parlor-trick contortions," including a family favorite, the "human chicken." That Grammy Cole was caring and brave, beyond a barrel of laughs, comes clear later in the narrative, when she faces cancer with heedless panache, reasoning "it was better it had happened to her than to someone who couldn't handle it."

At the other end of the emotional spectrum is Joan Abelove's germophobic Grandma Leah, the subject of the story "The Best Parts." Known for yanking sheets off the bed promptly at 6:00 a.m. regardless of the occupants she insisted on washing the linens daily and for shunning sickbed duty, Grandma Leah even refused to visit her own daughter as she lay dying of a brain tumor. Fortunately for Abelove, she had a palliative counterpart in Grandma Sophie, a feisty socialist who taught her to play poker.

Some of the grannies depicted here are certifiable saints, while others inspire less felicitous tributes from the authors. Clearly, not all the writers who rose to the challenge of describing their grandmothers worshipped their subjects. But as this provocative anthology shows the one thing this beloved family figure hasn't been is forgotten.

<I>Sandy MacDonald writes from Massachusetts.</I>

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