A sweetly affirmative portrait of mother-daughter love that explores big questions while also providing a riveting narrative of a custody battle. Picoult (The Pact, 1998, etc.) sets her tale in a small New Hampshire town during the last months of 1999 and intelligently addresses, without ever becoming strident or hysterical, such charged topics as mental illness and the existence of God. When Mariah comes home early one afternoon with seven-year-old daughter Faith and surprises husband Colin in bed with another woman, her carefully constructed world threatens to fall apart. The last time Colin was unfaithful, Mariah became suicidally depressed and was hospitalized until shortly before Faith’s birth; this time, after a speedy divorce, she tries to adjust to being on her own, but soon her daughter begins behaving oddly. Faith quotes scriptures she’s never been taught, claims she is speaking to God, miraculously resurrects her grandmother Millie (declared dead after a heart attack), and cures a child with AIDS. As the faithful, the ailing, and the curious gather outside Faith and Mariah’s house, stigmata appear on the girl’s wrists and various religious representatives question her credibility. Television personality Ian Fletcher, who makes a living debunking religion, arrives to do a feature. Distressed by the turmoil and media frenzy, Colin, now remarried, blames Mariah and sues for custody. Mariah, though distraught, finds herself attracted to Ian, who has his own secrets, but before true love and justice can be done, Faith nearly dies and Mariah goes to court, where she must defend herself, her past, and her daughter against an array of hostile witnesses and skeptics. Masterfully telling a story more usually found in the tabloids, Picoult offers a perfectly pitched take on the great mysteries of the heart. Her best yet.