Tillie Olsen wrote variant versions of this book some forty years ago, now reclaimed and revised. She is only known if by many well remembered for another single small volume -- the four stories which comprised Tell Me a Riddle (1961) and here, as in that book, art is often no more than a replication of experience while life reduces to barebone survival -- on a farm, in a packing home, down in the mines. Heat, cold, dirt, sickness. And the child (the Holbrooks, Anna and Jim have several) who asks ""What does nothing look like"" no doubt knows. Tillie Olsen's short novel is, as she acknowledges patchy, but there's no diminishing its fierce bloody-and-literal-mindedness -- the exactions of poverty are palpably physical on every page occasioning bitterness and brutality in decent people who once hoped, still hope. Thus even where ""You belong to a starless night now, unimaginably black, without light, like death"" "" Butterflies live behind your eyes."" And sometimes take wing.