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Alison Pick reads the sunroom of her cabin in Flesherton, Ont.

Michelle Siu / The Globe and Mail

I was a lucky kid who grew up spending weekends at our family's log cabin, on the banks of a pristine river in the gorgeous Beaver Valley. The cabin is still, hands down, my favourite place to read; it's the place where my imagination is most active, my concentration sharpest, and therefore the place where books are most alive to me.

These days, when I escape to the cabin, it is the duties of a mother I'm escaping. Ironically, half the time I leave my toddler, I find myself reading about her instead. It is clear to me now why people don't write about their children, or else write about them very badly. It is almost impossible to capture the texture of this most intimate coupling without veering off into cliché.

Extra kudos then, to Noelle Oxenhandler, whose The Eros of Parenthood is subtle, beautifully written and psychologically sophisticated. I can't put it down. The essays, many of which first appeared in The New Yorker, tackle the last great taboo: the erotic attachment that forms the basis of parental love. In a society that equates Eros with sex exclusively, the intense physicality young children engender and require often gets thrown out with the bathwater. Witness the increase in American daycares with strict "no hug" policies.

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And yet, along with compelling research into babies' brain development (for example, the groundbreaking The Science of Parenting by Margot Sunderland), Oxenhandler finds touch crucial, not just for physical and emotional development, but as an intimacy that's an end unto itself. This is a radical, super-smart book, and a much needed balm for our times.

Alison Pick is the author of the novel Far to Go, which won the Canadian Jewish Book Award for Fiction and has just been optioned for film.

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