Alexandra Jacobs
May 24, 1996 AT 04:00 AM EDT

A MOTHER’S STORY Gloria Vanderbilt (Knopf, $20) An old name, a family fortune, and a life of privilege have hardly inoculated Gloria Vanderbilt against woe. On the contrary, her share of tragedy seems so gruesomely disproportionate as to be a kind of fabulistic recompense. A Mother’s Story, the third of her memoirs (avoiding the stamp of ”idle rich,” she’s also written novels, designed jeans, and marketed perfume), describes with horrible clarity the most unbearable event in an existence crammed with adversity: Eight years ago, her 23-year-old son, Carter, threw himself from a terrace at her New York apartment as she watched helplessly. Writing about this bizarre episode — and recalling moments of intense familial happiness — fully humanizes the author, releasing her from the emotionally starved ”glass bubble” in which she was sealed by her icily moneyed world. It’s a familiar metaphor, used with an irrefutable earnestness that marks this entire tale of unsplendid isolation. A

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