A long, naturalistically told, conversational, warm and frequently horrifying novel deals with family life in an overcrowded slum in Ireland. Mrs. Baines, the Countrywoman, ""after eighteen years of two rooms in Kelly's Lane, was still clean-looking"", ladylike, strong and respected. She had raised her children mostly in the blessed absence, during the war and after, of her brutal, alcoholic husband Pat. But Pat comes back to smash the family's few belongings and steal their earnings. The two oldest daughters escape into marriage; the oldest boy, Danny, flees onto the streets. Mrs. Baines, her lovely, consumptive daughter Babby, two little boys, and a new baby continue to exist, as the priests have told them is their duty, between Pat's occasional savage visits. They sometimes shelter Pat's brother and his wife, members of the IRA, and there are the experiences of other slum-dwellers, a gutty, lusty, fierce-tongued people. Sex, hunger, anger and humor are the principal facts of their lives- they do constant battle- and have no privacy. By the end of the book Babby is dead, little Neddo has been sent away (by Pat), and Mrs. Baines, worn out by beatings and struggles, has died, leaving Pat to rage on alone. It is as if Pat has become the evil spirit and epitome of the violence and misery of that slum-life and time. Yet because of Mrs. Baines, this is also a tender, brave-spirited and certainly interesting book.