Narrated by an aging widow in the kitchen-table idiom of rural Nebraska, a quietly confiding first novel about domestic tragedies and village violence, of women and young men bucking destiny, of lingering love, death and dalliance. Great-granddaughter of a 1859 homesteader, "Annie D."--so nicknamed after her peaceful if passionless marriage to newly emigrated German Dr. Diettermann--was the daughter of good-hearted, plodding parents Harley and Mona, who taught her "airs and graces" and Latin. (latin saws announce each chapter.) Mona, hating farm life, was determined that her daughter would not be "another poor farm girl up to her knees in mud and muck." The good Dr. Diettermann promised liberation, and when Annie was six months pregnant, Mona left--forever--her task accomplished. Annie is content with the doctor and adores their two sons, Gunar and Bo. Meanwhile, she observes the blooming loves and miseries of her neighbors. There's her "friend" Phoebe, who is such a "snob and crosspatch" that Annie doesn't really mind seeing her suffer, as Phoebe does before her odd death. There's Phoebe's daughter Lacey, who comes into town in time for her hated mother's funeral, and who had double-crossed Phoebe by refusing to give up her illegitimate son by Casey Boots. Casey's the offspring of the abused, deserted, but resilient Mrs. Boots, whose doomed daughter Neva Jolene won't stay long with any man. But with sudden and terrible violence--both in the town and earlier, overseas--Annie D., now a widow, will bear the full brunt of loss, and make, finally, a terrible sacrifice. A plethora of miseries and meaningless deaths, as well as oases of happiness, give a certain space and warmth in the colloquial, unrushed narration.