Lydia Chapin Kirk, 88, who wrote a best-selling book about her years in Moscow as the wife of an American ambassador there, the late admiral Alan G. Kirk, died of cancer Dec. 3 at her home in New York City.

Mrs. Kirk, who was born in Erie, Pa., lived in the Washington area from 1918 to the early 1950s. She attended the Potomac School.

During World War II, she worked for the old Navy Bureau of Censorship and lectured for the Red Cross.

In 1918, she married Alan Kirk, a Navy officer who rose to command the U.S. naval forces during the Normandy invasion. He retired as an admiral and began a career as a diplomat.

He was ambassador to Taiwan, Belgium, and the Soviet Union, where he served from 1949 to 1952. Mrs. Kirk accompanied her husband abroad to naval and diplomatic posts.

During the years in Moscow, she wrote a series of letters to her daughters, who had remained in the United States. Portions of the letters were published later in the Ladies Home Journal and then by Scribners in a book called "Postmarked Moscow."

It was a hit. In a review, The Washington Post declared it to be a "lively and informal book" that "throws a little light into a fringe of a dark and hostile world." The review went on to applaud Mrs. Kirk's "cheerfulness and common sense" in managing a difficult task as the wife of the American ambassador in those chilling early days of the Cold War.

Mrs. Kirk brought back observations not only on the oppressiveness of the government and the drabness of everyday life in the Soviet Union, but also on subjects Americans may not have dwelled upon before.

In a 1952 interview with The Post, she said, "They have these terrible, terrible bras. They button and they are usually bright yellow, heavy cotton, and they bring the bosom up practically to your chin. They are all the same shape, and you have never seen anything like them stacked up in the stores like domes. Absolutely incredible!"

During the 1960s, Mrs. Kirk wrote three suspense novels. They were "The Man on the Raffles Veranda," "The Embassy Madonna" and "The Cuernavaca Question."

Admiral Kirk died in 1963. Mrs. Kirk's survivors include a son, Roger, of Washington; two daughers, Marian Kirk Appel of Radnor, Pa., and Deborah Kirk Solbert of Lloyd Harbor, N.Y.; 12 grandchildren and 11 great-grandchildren.