The illegitimate child -- in New Zealand -- in a sometimes tender, always unblushing, often funny combination of people and incidents. Bethell suffers the tribullations of gossip and scandal, the rejection of her proper relatives, the warm love of another aunt, the town's bad woman, and friendliness and understanding from the native Maoris -- not to mention the militant championship of the priest. Confusing but provocative, Bethell's football life -- with her respectable aunt (and a not-so respectable son), with an uncle by marriage at his hotel with Bruna and Sieglinde, with escapes to the comforting and comfortable Maori home of George Wi, then in the disgraceful Grace's house and eleven frowned-on playmates -- ends up in the furious terror of living with her father and his venomously hating wife. And there George Wi, crashing yet another scandal into the town's lascivious maw, comes to claim her as his daughter -- and save her from the brutalizing that would destroy her, and to send her own father to self-destruction. There's an unblinking realization of the rough and tumble of bare subsistence, of the good in the bad and the worst in the best of us that gives this a raw insistence which may repel or attract.