A happy family is shattered and scattered when a career woman is diagnosed with breast cancer: Steel's (The Gift, 1994, etc.) very damp--indeed, heavy-weeping--latest. Beautiful Alexandra Parker (her legs are long, her hair is red)--a top-flight Manhattan attorney specializing in labor law and libel--has been been happily married for 17 years to handsome Sam Parker, a top-flight venture capitalist. Alexandra and Sam are the middle-aged parents (she's 42) of adorable four-year-old Annabelle. Then one day Alex has a routine mammogram, and her world shatters: She will have to have surgery to remove a large malignant mass. Even before the radical mastectomy, however, and then afterward at home, what becomes horrifyingly clear to Alex is that her husband can't cope with her terrors and grief. At one point, Sam accuses her of ``whining'' and demands: ``Why can't you suffer quietly?'' (It seems that his mother's death from cancer has immobilized compassion). Then, for Alex, there are six months of chemotherapy. While Sam succumbs to the siren call of Daphne the British bombshell, his wife's balding head is being held by assistant partner Brock in marathon regurgitations in the office bathroom. Eventually, Brock and Alex (even before the six months are past) become lovers, Sam begins to have doubts about Daphne, and Annabelle is shuttled back and forth between parents. Then disaster strikes again when Sam and his partners are indicted for fraud and embezzlement. Is it the slammer for Sam? Will Alex solve her dilemma of loving both Brock the Kind and Sam the Pain, still her (now repentent) husband? Steel stretches the suspense until the last few pages. It was inevitable that prolific Steel would tackle a (rightfully) current concern, but--well, suffering along with Alex does not offer typical Steelian recreation.