On a whim I picked up The Seduction of Water by Carol Goodman. (Yes, Joe, it's a library book.)
The dust jacket said something about mother/daughter relation ships, blah blah blah, not all that appealing given the rather large number of books available on that topic.
The second paragraph indicated that the heroine is in her thirties, All But Dissertation, works several adjunct teaching jobs.... right there, I was interested. "[T]he buts are all but taking over her life: all but published, all but a professor, all but married..." Through happenstance, Iris meets with a literary agent who says that if Iris can find her deceased mother's unpublished final novel and write a book about the process, the agent can get it published. (Syntax, I know.) The book could also serve as Iris's dissertation, how perfect?
Goodman includes some wonderful ideas about the "teachable moment." She brilliantly describes what can happen when an instructor takes a chance with an assignment and it pays off in spades.
It's not all about teaching though - there's suspense, humor, romance, drama and truly terrific prose. Interspersed with the narrative are "excerpts" from Iris's mother's novels, which can be read just for fun or mined for clues and symbolism.