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'Piece of Work' is one part pleasant, one part unoriginal

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Among the tenets of chick lit, subgenre young motherhood, there are a few key ingredients: a cad of a man, a heroine who could afford to lose 10 pounds and some sort of a work life/home life crisis.

Piece of Work is a pleasant diversion, but it doesn't travel far from that formula. Julia Einstein, a power publicist turned stay-at-home mom to toddler Leo, returns to work when her good-guy husband loses his job.

As if the pangs of leaving Leo weren't bad enough, Julia's first job back is at John Glom Public Relations, which specializes in Hollywood's has-beens, and her boss is an undermining passive-aggressive jerk.

Julia is assigned to the promotional tour for Mary Ford, a onetime screen beauty who is launching what she soon discovers is an unpleasantly scented perfume called Legend.

But what becomes a legend most is the harridan Ford's ritual abuse of Julia. She shoplifts clothes at fashion shoots, drinks only Fresca, always orders food not found on the menu, and even finds a way to criticize Julia's son's looks.

Zigman, the author of Animal Husbandry (which became the movie Someone Like You ... starring Ashley Judd) has a breezy style and clearly can write, and she knows her territory. It would be great if she would focus her talents on a story that reads less like a Lifetime TV movie.

This book has no new revelations. Motherhood is rewarding, but it's OK for moms to work, too. And sometimes, dads can be better at child care than moms.

At book's end, our heroine is satisfied, solvent and 10 pounds svelter. And ladies, isn't that what we burned our bras for, after all? Discuss among yourselves.

Piece of Work

By Laura Zigman

Warner Books, 288 pp, $23.99

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