This story details several months in the life of a thirteen-year-old with incurable kidney disease and of her extended family--the policeman father who has cared for her since her mother ran off, the mother who reappears in time to learn she is the most likely donor, two sets of grandparents and several of the father's close friends. Two women in the father's life find their romantic attachments to him complicated by his role as his daughter's caretaker.

As Mary Grace's health deteriorates, her maturing accelerates. Each of the principal characters has to come to terms not only with impending loss, but with how this crisis reconfigures old patterns of family conflict and dependency. The story continues after her death as focus shifts to the father's grief, mourning, and new empathy with victims of accident and loss.


The point of view in this story shifts in such a way as to afford an "inside" view of each character's responses to the central crisis and to invite the reader to empathize with divergent and conflicting emotional strategies. The author avoids the sentimentality that can easily overtake stories about children's deaths. The sick child is a fully-fledged character who handles the practical realities of her condition--the awkward ritual of home dialysis, for instance--with a pragmatism that suggests a certain freedom from the emotional complexities of adulthood.

The strength of the novel is in characterization, particularly in the way the author forestalls easy moral judgment, even of the abandoning mother, and invites reflection on the wide variety of ways people cope with the hardest things in life. Some leavening humor mitigates the harshness of the content, which includes not only the details of disease and surgery, but various accidents and crimes the father encounters in his police work.



Place Published

New York



Page Count