A first novel that vividly depicts the mores of 1950's Tennessee. Prin, 11, notices that her new neighbor, Mary Faith, is being beaten. Prin's pregnant mother, preoccupied with her husband's illness, is less than sympathetic, telling Prin to stay away from the older girl, whose bad reputation is confirmed by Mary Faith's pregnancy. But Prin is not only fascinated by Mary Faith's superior sexual knowledge but concerned for her safety. Her knowledge of what is going on (including the loss of the baby after Mary Faith's father--who is also the father of Mary Faith's child--pushes Mary Faith downstairs) results in a confrontation and an attempted attack on Prin. This tragedy of abuse and incest takes place in the context of the silence and hypocrisy that often surrounded sexuality in this era. Prin tells her story in strongly felt prose through which the characters are realistically portrayed, though they lack originality and few of them engender sympathy.