Set back in the dear old dead old days when beating the wife and kids was considered a legally sanctioned if unreasonable way for a husband and father to work off his hostilities, this is a pioneering story set in New Zealand, with universals of circumstance which conform to 19th century settler experience in our West or in South Africa. The story starts in Australia in 1859 after the final beating Mr. Small gave his wife. Two of his young sons who interfered were left badly battered, one concussed and with a broken arm. Mary Elizabeth Small together with her six children, ran away when he left for a cattle sale. They had about as many rights as his cattle and running away from husband and father was definitely illegal. Through almost three quarters of the story, Small is an off-stage evil who might at any moment appear and take away all that the family was achieving in New Zealand, where they had gone on the only ship that would take them from Sydney. They landed empty-handed, assumed the name Phipps, and struggled in classic style under a mother of I Remember Mama stature to survive. A monstrous father who might descend and a captious landlord lend dramatic tension to a day-to-day struggle story through the longest part of the book. When they disappear, the excitement subsides and the novel hews to its original--the success story of the real family on which this novel is based. Good characterization and excellent land, people and history detail.