Twenty years after the fact of the birth of a cerebral-palsied child, Karen, Helene Brown finds herself repudiating Karen to her hairdresser and concludes she can never go back to that hairdresser again. The more important conclusion--one that's never been admitted in books by mothers of handicapped children who are usually more anxious, more loving, more devoted--is that she's been rejecting Karen right along. The account is really more about Helene than about Karen whom she was lucky enough to place in a very small home-school for a few years where she learned quite a bit (sign language, etc.); Karen was also mentally retarded and deaf. After that facilities were randomly chosen and difficult to pay for. Excuses come easily and justifiably for Helene: she married very young and stayed immature; her marriage fell apart under the stress of Karen; another child had to be considered. Helene worked her way up to ""interior design editor of a national magazine"" and salvaged something for herself even though Karen later was shunted around--including a stay at one institution (nameless) in Greenwich Village where there was a molester. At the end she attacked Karen herself. Mrs. Brown doesn't come off very well, for all her heart-on-the sleeve candor, but she does present a very different picture of the emotionally and physically difficult custodial problems usually assumed with less ambivalence and more willing sacrifice, or so we've been led to believe. But on a rocky road like this one, who's to throw the first stone?