As you'd expect from the Epsteins, this is no birth-to-death biography but a very close and human portrait of 23-year-old Margaret (or, as the Samoans called her, Makelita) on her first visit to Samoa. The book begins, astutely, with Makelita's ordeal: the young woman, who ""earlier that same year. . . had faced a difficult exam for her doctorate degree,"" must demonstrate her new serving skills at the village kava-drinking ceremony. (Can she handle the reflections of the language? Will she stumble? Or miss one of the men's cup names? Would she shame the chief who has given her a princess title?) After that opening, there are only a few pages on Mead's education and choice of career before we are back with her in Samoa, learning with her about the little girls' baby-sitting responsibilities and their older sisters' happy freedom, and experiencing with her the fierce New Year's Day hurricane that necessitated the rebuilding of the entire village. The Epsteins don't lecture or summarize, but through homey detail they convey a sense of the young anthropologist's seriousness, the already changing culture she studied, and above all the friendly relationship that grew up between Makelita and the villagers of all ages. Following a loving goodby to the island, one short chapter rounds out the life. Then, after pointing up what we have all learned from Mead's observations of another way of life, the book skips to the 1970s for her ""joyous return"" to Samoa, her new preface to the 1928 book, and the five-day 75th birthday party celebrated by the American Museum--an event that says all that's needed about the guest of honor's fame, success, and beloved status in her own community.