Only in New York: How I Took Manhattan (With the Kids) by Caroline Overington Allen & Unwin, HK$175 It can be said that Caroline Overington is not the average mother of twins. She's 'a bit fat', yes, a member of the voluptuously psychotic sorority of urban mothers, and familiar with the eroticisation of sleep. But when the going gets tough, she has it in her to step on a clown's shoes. And then there's her superlative investigative work into the impact of pornography on the Aboriginal community. The coveted writing award. And the fact that she uprooted her family to a rat-happy New York basement in winter. Not to mention the memoir of her three-year experience, Only in New York. Overington is a classic newshound, something like a contemporary Katharine Hepburn with a little more junk in the trunk, searing frauds and dopes with her cattleprod prose. Who could have guessed that, at core, she's as naive as a Louisa May Alcott heroine? 'Oh, New York,' she whispers to her window as the plane circles Manhattan. She envisages a place of 'romance', 'splendour' and 'song'. The book opens with her family's 2002 relocation from Bondi to an apartment near 83rd Street ('There is a window in the front but it only comes up to the knees of the people walking past outside ... The place is dark; we have to keep the lights on all the time'). Her husband, Martin, stalls a successful 20-year advertising career to care for their 18-month-old children while Overington, a foreign correspondent, files hot copy on the impending war in Iraq. It's almost a comic scenario. One of the most endearing aspects of Overington's book is her passion for the twins - an intoxication, giddying, as reckless as the most improvident affaire de coeur. Parted from them for a week, she's physically sick at the airport, and, when they arrive, falls to her knees - 'I couldn't stop feeling their hair, squeezing their limbs, sniffing their faces, licking their cheeks, drinking in their delicious toddler smell.' Her experiences of the urban maternal paradigm are equally arresting. 'I have,' she reports, 'come to know many parents who are able to spend only a few minutes a day with their children during the working week.' She writes of the hospital that employs Spanish interpreters in their pre-natal classes 'for wealthy mums- to-be who want their nannies - most of whom are new immigrants from Central America - to go to the hospital with them, so they can take the baby as soon as it is born.' A non-working neighbour reveals that she has never 'spent a single day alone with her children: the nanny went everywhere.' Overington claims that it made her 'uncomfortable' to note that these nannies and house helps were, for the most part, Hispanic or coloured, yet on page 220, she writes that she likes 'getting Mexicans to deliver food to my door'. And during the most excoriating winter in 100 years, she had no issue employing said 'Mexicans' and 'boys' to battle the Siberian weather to bring her newspapers and takeaways. Then there's the title of the chapter about her children's lunches, 'The Class Wog'. A normalisation of abuse in any context, it's used so innocently, and with such alacrity, with no consideration of its social toxicity or, for that matter, the contribution it makes to Australia's reputation as a nation of happy little hillbillies. Overall, though, Only in New York makes for a charming read. Elderly women with turtles on a leash, Ralph Lauren employees serving water in crystal bowls to dogs ... only in New York. Warm-hearted and inspiring, the book proves, as the dustcover promises, that 'the modern woman can have it all'.