THE OTHER WOMAN: 21 WIVES, LOVERS AND OTHERS TALK OPENLY ABOUT SEX, DECEPTION, LOVE AND BETRAYAL

Edited by Victoria Zackheim. (Grand Central, 276 pages, $13.99, new in paperback)

They should have known better. That's the recurring theme of "The Other Woman," a collection of dispatches from both sides of, as Diana Abu-Jaber (who was stalked by one of her ex-husband's student conquests) puts it, "the war between Other Woman and Wife." The essays are uneven, but ultimately satisfying. Reading one is like hearing a girlfriend's travails over a glass of wine. Pam Houston writes of her romance with a friend who was involved with a married Muslim woman in another country: "In America, the Other Woman is always somebody else." Former Iowan Jane Smiley details a complicated situation that went "beyond California and practically to Scandinavia." Dani Shapiro remembers her affair with a friend's stepfather: "a 22-year-old blonde dressed like Ivana Trump" brought to her senses by tragedy. The essayists write of their selfishness, vindictiveness and naivete -- and of their hopefulness and pain. Together, they prove Lynn Freed's point: "Reason itself knows nothing of the heart."

MARCI SCHMITT, FEATURES LAYOUT EDITOR