A sardonic, sad, strong picture of the bigotry, intolerance, hate and gossip that choked what little love there was in a cracker town of Georgia, and that made a firm trio of young Tom Beane, profane, kindly Dr. Smith and wise old Aunt Duty. Against the mass emotionalism of brimstone teachings, young Tom's decision to run away from home is strengthened by his two friends, as they persuade him to find his own God away from the narrow ignorance of his home. Brutal beatings- and the burning of Tom's books- follow; the town reflects a wider pattern of violence as a Jewish merchant is almost lynched, and a Negro is lynched following the rape of a hill-billy child wife. Tom escapes sexual adventures, endures his last beating, rides the rails to die on a New Mexican desert... Episodes and characters are linked frailly. The strong continuity is in the panorama of a community that permits no deviation from its mores, no intelligent questioning of its morals, no personal emancipation.