Heading off with the character of death on page one of her moral-dilemma debut, Hancock establishes from the outset that she is heading for the emotional jugular. Both her central characters carry genetic predispositions, teacher Lucy Houston to cancer and club-owner Mickey Chandler to mental illness. A multi-clause contract, which includes a ban on children, has safeguarded their 11-year marriage, which is why Lucy, who has had her tubes tied, has mixed feelings about her pregnancy. She has two sisters, childless Lily and bossy Priscilla, and has already survived one serious bout of the disease; Mickey, meanwhile, struggles daily with the risk of mania and has made several trips to the hospital when off his meds. What happens after Lucy is diagnosed with further medical complications is less a plot and more a sequence of character reconfigurations within this schematic scenario. Narrated alternately by Lucy and Mickey, the tale’s connective tissue consists of weeping, recriminations, pills, protestations and more weeping, concluding with a final wringing of the reader’s exhausted tear ducts via a trifecta of birth, death and Christmas Eve.A tidily crafted but treacly excavation of misery in the name of higher sentiments.