Published in Sweden in 1936, the first volume of an autobiographical trilogy by Martinson (Women and Appletrees, 1985): a touching, richly detailed account of two years in the life of a family struggling for survival, seen through the eyes of a naive but observant girl. Mia is almost seven when the book opens, born illegitimate and in poverty. With her mother's marriage, Mia is to acquire a stable home and a stepfather--who, alas, is a wastrel with selfish, grasping relatives, except for his foster-mother, who proves to be a real friend. Mia and her mother Hedwig manage to stay together, seeking work in factory towns and on farms, repeatedly rising into the respectable working-class and then sliding back to lice-ridden degradation. Along the way, Mia forms strong attachments--notably with a supportive teacher and with stunted little Hanna, who lives in the poorhouse--that must be broken when the family moves on. Meanwhile, Hedwigemains the center of Mia's universe, but she is also a mystery: her inexplicable loyalty to her unreliable husband; her sudden transformations. Hedwig maintains civilized values even in the midst of grinding poverty (so much so that a fellow tenantfarmer's wife curtseys to her out of respect), but she becomes (when pregnant) a wan, frightened creature who shames her daughter by vomiting into the hedges in plain view of people passing on the road. The simplicity of the narrative has been well-served by the translator, who occasionally follows Swedish snytax, just enough to enhance the novel's flavor without being artificially cute. A vivid picture of working-class Swedish life and culture at the turn of the century, focusing on the experiences of women.