Sufferers are transformed by the transcendent power of love in Rice's (Cloud Nine) uplifting if flawed new family relationship drama. Life has not proved easy for single mom Dianne Robbins, of Gull Point, Conn. Abandoned by her husband, lobsterman Tim McIntosh, just before their daughter Julia was born with spina bifida and Rett syndrome--a debilitating physical condition and an autism-like disorder, respectively--Dianne supports herself and Julia by building children's playhouses. At the age of 11, Julia weighs 29 pounds, and there is no guarantee she will live much longer; yet she has a magical radiance. Despite the difficulties of caring for a severely disabled child, Dianne is never bitter, and her relationship with Julia is hope filled and loving. Dianne had also believed that her strong love would repair Tim's damaged self-esteem and save their marriage. Now she is wary of getting involved with a man again. But Tim's brother, Alan, who also happens to be Julia's pediatrician, has been secretly in love with Dianne for years, and his steadfast devotion may be just what she needs. Meanwhile, Amy Brook, an adorable 12-year-old from a troubled family (and a familiar device in Rice's novels), finds sanctuary in the Robbins household and becomes Julia's best friend; through Amy's example, Dianne finally understands what true love means. The author takes an unaccustomed shortcut when she reveals the plot's conclusion through heretofore silent Julia's thoughts. Had Rice interwoven Julia's reactions throughout the book, the final chapter would not seem a quick device to tie up loose ends. Still, the novel's theme--love's miraculous ability to heal--has the ingredients to warm readers' hearts. Major ad/promo. (Feb.) FYI: Rice's Cloud Nine will be released as a mass market paperback in January.