An overly slick third novel from Jackson (Li'l Mama's Rules, 1997, etc.) focuses in a rather programmatic way on the reproductive lives of four women--three black and one white. When Patricia learns that she's infertile, she falls into a deep depression that lifts only when her long-suffering husband Mark buys her the beauty salon she dubs Blessings. The shop gets off to a rocky start until Pat is joined by feisty young Zuma, a hot-shot hair stylist with a master plan. Tired of the no-account men in her life, Zuma saves a bundle of money, secretly planning to undergo artificial insemination and raise her child alone, partly to wipe away the pain of a long-ago abortion. Her story is set in counterpoint to that of Pat, who suffers bitterly, first over her barrenness and later over failed adoption efforts. Then there's Faye, a widow struggling to raise children--her six-year-old son, who gets suspended for trying to strangle another boy; and her 16-year-old daughter, who gets pregnant and runs away. Meanwhile, a new manicurist, Sandy, the only white girl in this all-sister mix, is married to the owner of the strip joint where she used to dance. Tied down with her two small children, Sandy openly resents motherhood and flagrantly neglects three-year-old David and baby Dalila. The story's climax comes about through Sandy's monumentally selfish behavior, though her callousness is partially redeemed through an act of kindness to Pat and Mark. Jackson's focus on the ways children shape and alter women's lives is provocative. But breezy, clichÆ’-ridden prose and facile observations on politics and love dilute whatever impact the story might have had.