Terminal illness becomes a catalyst for change in this generally affecting if sometimes maudlin drama by the bestselling author of Missing Pieces and See Jane Run. At 36, art dealer Mattie Hart seems to be enjoying a perfect life. Her husband, Jake, is a brilliant criminal defense lawyer; her teenage daughter, Kim, is lovely and affectionate; and the Harts have a gorgeous home in the Chicago suburbs. But ever since their hasty marriage 16 years agoÄMattie got pregnant on their first dateÄJake has been chafing at the bit, sleeping around and neglecting his wife. Until now, Mattie has managed to ignore his infidelities. But his most recent affair, with freelance writer Honey Novak, is more serious, and Jake plots to leave Mattie just as she plans to confront him. Matters come to crisis when Mattie is found to have debilitating Lou Gehrig's disease, with the prognosis of only a short time to live. Jake is guilt-ridden; though he has already moved out, he returns home to care for Mattie, meanwhile continuing his liaison with Honey. The complicated emotional situation hurts Kim, who is already struggling with the onset of maturity and the pressures of social popularity. Fielding is good at chronicling the messy tangle of family relationships, delving into Jake's childhood memories of abuse and Mattie's recollections of marital neglect. As the end approaches for Mattie, all three are forced to examine what love really means. None too subtle, the novel nevertheless wins points for honesty and forthrightness, tackling complex issues and gearing readers up for a three-tissue finale. Regional author tour. (Sept.) Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.