A strenuous, tortuously plotted soap-opera, mined with liberated-love messages and flatly peopled: disappointing work from the author of A Woman of Independent Means. Manhattan editor Lindsay--42, lover of nice divorced Todd, still married to completely paralyzed John Henry--is raped by a crazed assailant as the novel begins. But even in the horror of the moment, Lindsay is convinced she has conceived. And, having escaped with her life she is determined to ""protect it"" with a new life: she decides to have the baby, even though (because of age) she must stay bedridden for the entire pregnancy. So two old college classmates come to care for Lindsay: widowed housewife/mother Cissie, who has channeled anger at her late husband (handsome, callous) into resentment for her kids; and Meg, who long ago left fiancÃ‰ John Henry for a law career (urged on by Lindsay) but wound up marrying Mark, abandoning law, yet remaining sorrowfully childless. It's Meg, then, who will take over the duty of visiting mute John Henry in the hospital from loyal, devoted Lindsay. (He has become ""the human face of God--seeing everything, responding to nothing."") And after Lindsay's daughter is born, Todd (whose ex-wife never gave him the children he wanted) will love the baby as his own; the lovers will make a commitment at John Henry's bedside; and (in an interior monologue) John Henry will express his relieved readiness to die: ""he was free of a responsibility that was too awesome to acknowledge. Thank God there was someone to take his place."" (Meanwhile, Meg momentarily breaks down and kidnaps the baby, then reunites with Mark . . . while Cissie is reconciled with her children.) Over-simplified relationships, sketchy characters: an ambitious theme-cluster--with a trendy single-mother angle at the start--in a talky, unconvincing treatment.