A 1977 novel, very popular in West Germany where it was first brought out--and it isn't difficult to see why. Bruckner's main character, Maximiliane Quindt, is introduced as she's fleeing ahead of Russian troops at the end of WW II--after she has already been raped by them. Maximiliane is crossing this terrain with four young children. And, though once a noblewoman, the daughter of a Pomeranian squire and briefly the wife of a rabid Nazi, Maximiliane is now lucky if one of the kids can trade flints for a can of G.I. dog food. Yes, this, then, is a Mother Courage story in all its vigor and undauntedness. A natural survivor, Maximiliane is supple enough of soul to do anything to get through: she'll marry a black marketeer for a spell, run a sausage shop, manage to take the kids on an American trip in the Fifties, start a pÃ¢tÃ‰ business--and, most touching of all, let her children grow as they will. . . and also go. The kids thus go in different directions: speed-obsessed Golo becomes a motorcycle-accident fatality; Viktoria is a radical when the Sixties roll around; Joachim's a passive poet; Mirka's a famous model. And each benefits enormously from the lack of expectations which Maximiliane's extremely tolerant sprit imposes on them. The book advances decade by decade, period by period, climaxing with Maximiliane's return glimpse of her native town of Poenichen (now in Poland). So there's little real drama here. But the characters are sturdily engaging (despite Maximiliane's blithe attitude toward her Nazi husband)--and the result is a somewhat shallow but modestly satisfying family saga, a cut above the commercial US routine.