A poorly written account of the research into spina bifida, divided spine, a group of congenital illnesses affecting about 5000 US babies each year. Spina bifida occulta, a failure of the bony spinal column to fuse, is a relatively minor syndrome; when accompanied by myelomeningocele, a deformity of the neural and membranous tissue of the spine, the complications are usually serious. Hydrocephalus (""water on the brain"") often occurs and most afflicted children suffer from numerous related ailments--incontinence, lower body paralysis, chronic kidney and bladder infections. In the Fifties, an American perfected a valve which alleviated hydrocephalus, prolonging life--which raised other problems (poor quality of life, high cost of monitoring needs, devastating side effects on families) and forced doctors and parents into agonizing decisions. Reid is unrestrained in his praise for the principal researchers, working largely in Britain (where the incidence is highest), who have struggled with the puzzling data and watched affected families endure countless hardships. But despite his good intentions, this awkward hybrid of medical history, pulpy characterizations, and utter trivia is virtually worthless for medical personnel or parents seeking more information.