Julia Ward Howe Hoffman, the precocious diarist with An Awful Name to Live Up To (1969), grows up in style and the metamorphosis is recorded in her own words as her self-conscious (and malapropian) erudition mellows into mature reflection at age 18. The diary picks up in 1902 when Julia's parents, an ""English clergyman's daughter"" and a voluble German rancher who are ""very closely related"" in spite of their opposite opinions, send her to Grand Island, Nebraska (""a town that is neither grand nor an island, but it has a high school"") to live with the genteel Van Wolfs and further her education. There she muses on ways of city folk, discovers (and is unimpressed by) male supremacy and fends off the unwelcome attentions of a ""Spitzbube"" boy named Plumpudding Chapelle. But when sickness in the Von Wolf family cuts short her formal education, she is forced to return to western Nebraska where she faces a series of family tragedies of her own -- brother Andy's guilt over the accidental death of a child, her sister Polly's premature widowhood, and giving up her cherished dreams of attending Smith College to teach in a ramshackle country school. As befitting the year, Julia is an old-fashioned girl who writes sentimental verses, finds her greatest satisfactions within the family circle and marries her first love, the dashing Jerry Van Wolf. But her observations ring unfailingly true -- sharp, often uncomfortably funny and never sugarcoated, and her developing integrity is something to behold. It's a rich, crowded romantic novel ""with plenty of spine in its backbone"" and no discernible moral except that life is quite a battle.