A would-be bitter comedy of manipulation and revenge from a first-time author. From the day her father abandoned his family to run off to New Zealand with his mistress, little Hazel Sugden dreamed of also herself fleeing her crazy mother, sadistic sister, and all of the gritty ``Cheeseways'' section of Gridiron, England, into the arms of a capable husband and a stable, middle-class life. The appearance of square-jawed Gregory Stevenson, Gridiron's most popular gynecologist and scientific researcher, occurred just in time, and Hazel was quick to marry him. Now, though, years later, with a house in the suburbs and a nice if rather odd young son, Hazel isn't quite so sure she chose wisely. For one thing, Gregory's research into ``Genetic Choice,'' a drug that can supposedly help mothers produce perfect offspring, is being lambasted as the Devil's work by popular televangelist Reverend Carmichael. Then there's the fact that Gregory's unmarried research partner, Dr. Ruby Gonzalez, looks remarkably and very smugly pregnant. When Hazel begins to suspect that her own son, Billy, is in fact the result of one of Gregory's botched perfect-baby experiments, and that Ruby's child-to-be is the long-awaited new, improved model, she flees to Ma for comfort. But Mother Sugden now lives at the Manxheath Institute of Challenged Stability, and when the institute's head psychiatrist learns of Hazel's predicament, he promptly teams up with fellow-scientist Gregory to have Hazel committed, too. Luckily, Hazel's lonely, career-focused sister, Linda, has fallen for the potbellied Reverend Carmichael and is eager to prove her religious devotion by wreaking havoc on Gregory's work—just as the Madonna-like Dr. Gonzales prepares to give a perfect birth. Will the Sugdens and Stevensons manage to sort themselves, and their offspring, out once this Christlike baby is born? Had even one of these characters been a mite more likable or intelligent, the reader might care. As it is, it's one big fix the author has got into—and it's not particularly interesting watching her scramble out.
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