A tenderly moving debut novel about three generations of Cuban-American women who turn the brief life of a handicapped baby into a celebration of life and love. Veciana-Suarez, a columnist for the Miami Herald, sets her first fiction in the same Miami neighborhood she grew up in: a place of bodegas, Cuban restaurants, and neatly maintained duplexes like the one her characters share. The three protagonists here have not had an easy life: Cuca, the matriarch, is long-widowed; Adela, her daughter, was divorced while still raising her only child; and this child, Maribel, now adult and pregnant, has been abandoned by her drug-running husband. The three women have responded to trouble in different ways. Cuca, who endured numerous pregnancies before giving birth to Adela, is comforted by memories of her life in Cuba, by her talks with the dead, and by her practice of herbal medicine. Adela, a frivolous and pleasure-loving cosmetologist, has numerous lovers, including the husband of her best friend. Maribel, unlike her mother, is an immaculate housekeeper, a serious career woman, and, except for her passion for drug-dealing Eduardo, is ``a stranger to risk and adventure.'' When baby Victor Eduardo is born prematurely, however, all their lives are changed. Victor is born with trisomy 18--an extra chromosome--and Maribel is told he won't live long. In the brief months that follow, she at first fights to keep him alive, then eventually learns to accept what can't be changed as Victor begins to weaken. Adela also joins the fight, discovering some surprising inner resources along the way. And Cuca, keeping watch over the dying baby, is comforted by seeing all she had loved and lost ``waiting for Victor, ready for him.'' A three-hankie debut, luminously written, that is also a loving grace note to family and the human spirit.