Warming portrait of an expert in the craft of homemaking, a ""natural mother"" who wisely handles fresh frets presented by a vigorous family, against a calendar of years and changing seasons on a Western New York farm of the 20's and 30's. There's relaxing humor and a self-effacing, unself-conscious charm, in this story of the Rathbense, whose turbulence and tribal feudings provide their fill of romance. Effie, by manipulation, fends off loyal Tom because of her devotion to old Shad and his brood, she brings about David's law schooling, Perez' elopement, Hester's escape to the big city. She engineers a prickly reunion over the first grandson, she thrusts David's unexpected fiancee down the family throat, she keeps Shad's ex-wife from causing more trouble, she controlls Shad's explosions over his children. And at the end, it is Shad's death that ends her long service to the Rathbones.