cover image The Gift

The Gift

Danielle Steel. Delacorte Press, $15 (216pp) ISBN 978-0-385-31292-9

Steel deviates sharply from her usual romance formula in this tender if sometimes sappy story about bad things happening to good people. It's 1952, and the Whittakers are the perfect happy family. But when five-year-old Annie dies of meningitis the day after Christmas, their lives fall apart. Teenager Tommy begins frequenting a diner where he meets 16-year-old waitress Maribeth Robertson, who's pregnant and has been thrown out of her home. The two lonely adolescents slowly fall in love; Tommy offers to marry Maribeth, but she refuses, claiming that they are too young to be parents; she plans to give the child up for adoption. Meanwhile, Tommy's parents have drifted far apart, but the fear that their son may soon be a father temporarily reunites them. Eventually, the Whittakers, parents and son, help Maribeth to cope with her pregnancy and her family's rejection, while she helps them accept the death of their beloved Annie. Reading more like a novella than a full-fledged novel, the narrative has well-meaning characters, uplifting sentiments and a few moments that could make a stone weep. Nice as it is, however, her fans will no doubt crave for the day when Steel returns to her tried-and-true one-woman/two-great-loves potboilers. One million first printing; major ad/promo; Literary Guild and Doub le day Book Club main selections; simultaneous Spanish edition, El Regalo, available in trade paper (