This ambitious first-person debut about a father coping with his young daughter and her incurable disease probes the nexus of parental responsibility, love, and personal identity. Jim and Marsha Kaldy's daughter, six-year-old Stella, is suffering from a severe skin disease that affects her growth: She has no fingers or toes and is prone to infections and painful blisters all over her body. Marsha has dutifully stayed home with Stella while Jim has gone to work, but now she misses working and persuades Jim to switch parenting roles. Jim decides that he also will teach Stella at home since she is unhappy at school. He empathizes with Stella's physical problems because, as a child, he suffered from a bone-growth disorder that left him permanently stunted. Much of the novel concerns Jim's internal acceptance of his new, expanded role as father and his diminished role in the outside world. He also must come to grips with troubling memories of his own childhood and family: his powerful, gentle father, and his caring but discontented mother. Stella's doctor wants to perform a risky operation that will help her gain movement in her joints. She bravely undergoes the surgery, but when complications develop, her family must face a heartbreaking loss. Unfortunately, the novel's reach exceeds its grasp. The story is affecting and intriguing, and its issues universal, but it lacks a strong build-up and convincing, individualized characters with identities beyond their obvious predicaments.