How can the author of a bombshell like 1970's Love Story follow up with such a long succession of dramatic duds (Prizes, 1995, etc.)? Readers are likely to occupy their minds with this question while leafing through the forgettable life and loves of Dr. Matthew Hiller, genetic engineer extraordinaire. With an alcoholic lit-professor father and a workaholic mother, young Matthew knew he was blessed to possess a talent as a pianist strong enough that one day it will carry him away from Dearborn, Michigan, forever. In college, he majors in music but also pursues an interest in medicine while carrying on a benign but creative friendship with a pretty cellist named Erie. After graduation, Erie marries her master-class instructor, and Matthew opts for reed school, following up with a stint tending victims of Ethiopia's famine. There, he meets and falls hard for fellow doctor Silvia Dalessandro, an Italian super-heiress using this altruistic jaunt to escape a scheduled marriage to wealthy family friend Nice Rinaldi. Matthew and Silvia shack up together, but when Matthew is nearly killed by natives, Silvia agrees to marry Nico right away if he'll airlift Matthew to a Swiss hospital. Thus Matthew hangs on to his life but loses Silvia and--he realizes soon enough--his ability to play the piano. Heartbroken, he buries himself in research studies at Harvard, soon becoming the world's expert at destroying brain tumors through genetic engineering. Moving to New York to continue his work, Matthew rediscovers Evie (now divorced with two daughters), marries her, and lives happily until, lo and behold, Silvia appears at his office door with the biggest brain tumor of all. Will Matthew resist Silvia's fatal attraction, holding onto the family happiness he's found with Evie? Segal's brisk, oddly passionless prose does little to motivate the reader to care.