Ayelet Waldman.

Forget the archetypal wicked stepmother whose twisted logic graces many a fairytale, Emilia Greenleaf thinks that she could knock the evil witch for six and then some.

Because under the sleek exterior of a glittering education and life with her soul mate in an elegant Manhattan apartment, Emilia harbours the kind of secret which would give many a wholesome middle-American mother nightmares for weeks.

She has a private, guilty loathing for her five-year-old step-son William which manifests itself in hidden irritation at his adult-like turns of phrase, or treating him to dairy products whilst blaming his dubious lactose intolerance on his mother Carolyn's over-active imagination.

Since being within a five-mile radius of a child dissolves Emilia into floods of tears, the usual Wednesday afternoon ritual of picking William up from nursery school verges upon unbearable.

But ironically, when his ceaseless questioning turns to the death of baby Isabel, it is Emilia's blundering attempts at bonding with her precocious stepson that eventually leads her to heal herself and learn the real definition of family.

This is a bitterly funny, moving, powerful and honest glimpse into the painful dilemmas thrown up by fractured family life and the struggle to piece the fragments of it back together. Emma Pomfret