After her ex-husband initiated custody proceedings for nine-year-old Richard, Mary Jo Risher became a ""reluctant symbol"" and, later, an articulate advocate for an increasingly vocal minority, lesbian mothers. Richard had been living comfortably for many months with Mary Jo, her lover Ann Foreman, and Ann's daughter, but Jimmy, the Risher teenager, had already bolted from the house--probably a combination of true distress and his father's encouragement. Mary Jo's case--a landmark because it involved a jury--became something of a cause celebre; presumably her fitness was in question but in fact the efficacy of homosexual households was on trial. Despite expert testimony on her stability and competence, she lost the first round (10-2) and an appeal but the case will go to the Texas Supreme Court and possibly beyond. Highly sympathetic author Gibson struggles valiantly with the tangle of issues (neither household was ideal, and court costs, old resentments, and publicity affected them all) but he steadily depreciates her shortcomings and his turgid prose is a serious obstacle. Of her failure to recognize Jimmy's discomfort at home: ""Mary Jo was perpetually tardy in grasping the radical shifts in moods associated with that rare state of development lumped under the title of 'adolescence.'"" Distraught and angry after the trial and uneasy in the spotlight, she nevertheless allowed People to photograph Richard's last breakfast and departure two days later. And she missed her first visitation because she was out on the lecture circuit. She telephoned, but ""it was bard for Mary Jo to determine whether the boy understood why his mother was out of town and couldn't see him."" What Gibson engraves as a proud, emergent consciousness others will consider a personality in transition, wrongly labeled ""unfit,"" developing new strengths and denying strategic blind spots. An important case with many ramifications, which would have benefited from firmer handling.