Jacquelyn Mitchard, , read by Juliette Parker. . HarperAudio, $39.95 (0pp) ISBN 978-0-694-52497-6

Gordon McKenna is a handsome 24-year-old science teacher who thought life was as tough as it could get when his only sister, Georgia, was diagnosed with cancer. Then she and her husband die in a car crash, leaving behind their one-year-old daughter, Keefer. Gordon willingly gives up his self-involved bachelor life and adopts his beloved niece. Georgia's in-laws, however, have different wishes for their granddaughter. Well heeled, conservative and wealthy, they believe their born-again Christian niece and her husband should get custody of the child. Their challenge to Gordon's custody lies in the fact that both he and Georgia were adopted children, with "only" love, not blood, connecting Gordon and Keefer. Thus begins the custody battle which makes up the bulk of this book. Mitchard is known for her bestseller, The Deep End of the Ocean (Oprah's very first book pick, back in Sept. '96), as well as for her nationally syndicated newspaper column about family life. As a widowed mother of five adopted children who was once part of a custody suit, Mitchard is an expert on how even the most loving and functional households can be thrown into turmoil and chaos without warning. She writes with grace and authority, and Juliette Parker's gentle and even reading of the text gives a slightly upbeat feel to this suspenseful and emotional tale that challenges the legal definition of "family." Simultaneous release with HarperCollins hardcover (Forecasts, Apr. 23). (June)