An authentically textured if not especially sharp recollection of growing up on an Iowa farm in 1931. Marie Carlsen longs for another girl in her country school's fifth grade; then scorns the slow, fat, bad-smelling Frannie when Frannie's dirt-poor family does move in; and is stricken with grief and guilt when Frannie's mother dies in childbirth. Marie's fatherless family's dull life picks up when a young, story-telling tramp named Nick shows up asking for a drink of water and stays on for weeks as a field hand. When Nick and older sister Rosie fall in love, Nick, who has no prospects to offer, leaves--and Rosie gets engaged to a fat and obnoxious but rich neighbor. With taxes unpaid and neighbors losing their farms to the banks, older brother Alfred, who hates farming (""It's killing me living here""), joins a farmers' strike and worries Mama with his wild angry talk. But then Uncle Jens in California sends money for Alfred to take an electrician's course in Chicago; and word comes that Rosie, who has left home, is married to Nick and working in Uncle Jens' orange grove. These contrived happy endings mar the story's low-keyed natural flow, but the story has appeal as a picture of how it was then.