Lupe, a Salvadoran peasant woman, married at 15, mother and grandmother, awakens at 5:30 A.M. to the light that enters between the sticks of her wooden house. By 5:00 that afternoon, she will have seen the half-dead, savaged body of her husband Jose--brought before her by the brutal National Guard--and will have denied knowing him, in order to avoid the deaths of herself, her children, and her grandchildren. Why have Lupe and Jose (who had been sleeping out in the fields at night) become the Guard's enemies? Because they took part in an innocuous protest with fellow villagers of Chalate over fertilizer prices--an occasion that sparked a massacre at the time, followed by a steady violent decimation of the people, with every male villager a suspect and a target. And Lupe's whole day is filled with: the memory of finding son Justino's head mounted on a road pike; the poverty exemplified by the village diet of tortillas and salt; thoughts about the solace provided by dogs (less animal than men); and a stoicism which Salvadoran novelist Argueta renders through wrenching interior monologues. (""I saw that there was no other way out. And that's why you opened your eye when I had denied you, because I had already done the most difficult thing. I took it as a greeting, as if you were saying 'Thank you, Lupe,' with that glance from your coffee-colored eye that had remained shut, shut by the same blood that bathed your head; while your other eye had been put out forever, hanging over your nose, I wondered how you managed to stay conscious."") Complete with portraits of the Guards, whose pathetic class-pride has been cynically manipulated: a picture of unbearable brutality--in a very grim, very dignified novel that comes closer to the horror than any newspaper stories thus far.