As in The Books of Rachel (1979), Gross' prototypical heroine here is a victim, this time not of anti-Semitism, but of exploitation visited upon Irish immigrants in turn-of-the-century New York. And again there's an overkill of a worthy subject by a rat-a-tat of heavy incident and wham-bam s/m sex. In County Kerry 17-year-old Maura Dooley--daughter of a Neanderthal father and a good, educated, fragile mother--sees her sister Brendt hurl herself off a cliff because she's been cast off not only by the man who made her pregnant, but by the Church as a fallen woman. For this and other reasons, Maura's dream is America--and to make the dream come true she agrees to marry weak Patrick O'Connell. But, during the cruel steerage passage, Patrick is one of the many who take ill and die. So, after the humiliations at Ellis Island, Maura, right off the boat, is tricked into a brothel, enslaved, mutilated, and gang-raped. . . until finally she's allowed to go to the ""uptown"" brothel, from which she escapes to pursue her dream. Also pursuing her is one of the brothel customers--rich, gentlemanly Kevin Vane, who is all set to make Maura his mistress. But you can keep your big car, mister, and your diamond ring, says Maura: she finally finds an honest factory job, and it's Maura the Sewing Machine Girl who will organize a strike for the overworked, wildly underpaid girls. She also somehow manages to go to night school (as well as have an abortion)--and, after making sacrifices to follow through with the strike, she gets an office job with nice Mr. Curtis--who teaches her to type. So finally Maura announces her dream of opening a typing school to Jake (a young peddling entrepreneur who has his dreams and wants to marry her), then greets her mother, miraculously alive after steerage. Gross' prose has a tabloid energy, and Maura has more pizazz than the Books of Rachel ladies; so, if he can lay off the exploitative, lurid excesses in the future, he may yet produce a big popular success.