Free to squander lives? to squander land? to squander inheritance and responsibility and time ? to squander talents? --Such is the question posed by this story of a marriage built on compulsion of public opinion and wrecked on the assumption that freedom connotes license. The girl had great promise and her workworn mother had built her hopes and dreams on her daughter's future -- until easy passion caught her in its grip. The man, likable, indolent, victim of ready friendships and an assurance that the rundown farm he inherits and the few thousands in the bank will take care of wants as well as needs, finds out -- too late --that his substance has gone, his family grown out of hand, and only the WPA can give him a slim living. In the process, the marriage has disintegrated into frictions, fears, and -- on the wife's part -- grim determination to give her daughter the chance she had missed, even at the sacrifice of her own integrity (as she steals from her husband) -- her son's standards (as he accepts petty theft as a normal thing) -- her younger children's well-being -- and finally, her husband's final clutching at a chance to redeem his own pride, when the war provides jobs for all and war bonds a chance to make a contribution to his ""free country"". And then, at the close, the daughter, for whom so much had been paid, repeats her mother's mistake -- and the mother, driven by despair into madness, kills her. There the story ends -- a story of mounting tension, of disillusion, of characters for whom one can feel little sympathy. A sure seller on the basis of his last two best sellers.