When Liza Bishop, orphaned at seven, is deposited on her Aunt Vera's door-step, the highest and mightiest doorstep in a Florida town, consisting of the Bishop papermills and turpentine stills and sporting the Bishop nametag, she is in for some rough going. Aunt Vera, who considers only God her equal, uses whatever weapon at hand to keep it that way -- and she believes if the stock is half worthless, it's all worthless-- she considered Liza's lovely, laughing mother at most ""common"". Aunt Vera's vicious ways take center stage here, as she drives her fine son, who's home from school for good to learn the business and in love with a mill hand's daughter, into the Marines and death in China, depriving him even of his Ozell's letters by threatening the postman -- so that he dies not knowing he is to be a father. Mason's death does not soften Vera, but when Ozell goes to the tuberculosis hospital, it brings her another Bishop to mold in the Bishop pattern...and Liza, who had set aside her love for Uncle Orrin, the black Crystal and her sister Dulcie to run away, returns to help the new little Bishop slug it out. An unusual mixture of spirited childhood and adult modes somehow denatured of their tragic consequences through the seven-to-eleven year-old eye of the narrator, highlighting eccentricity over emotion, felt but filtered through a child's comprehension.