Twenty-one-year-old Ellen Barlow, from the big city of Omaha, accepts (1921) a highschool teaching post in tiny Spring Willow, Nebraska, to escape the memoties of a recent personal tragedy, nature undisclosed (though we are given enough clues to guess long before being told). Thinking to find anonymity, Ellen of course finds smalltown nosiness instead. She also finds herself becoming interested and involved in other people's business--none of which, in her spirtless telling, is distinguishable from soap opera. Why is Miss Cook, the acerbic principal, frightened of the town drunk? (No one knows that she's married to him.) And why does she hate Ellen's favorite student? (He's the drunk's son but not hers.) What strange power has Miss Cook over the school superintendent, Mr. Hedges? (Her brother is president of the school board.) Ellen's eccentric landlady, Freda, says her sister Jean is dead; but is she? (No.) And why is Mr. Hedges not welcome in Freda's house? (They used to court.) And why is Dr. Preston not welcome there either? (Jean married his son and moved away.) As for Ellen, was she or wasn't she responsible for the auto accident that killed her parents? Well, she wasn't; but by the time she works the problem out (and finds romance) we no longer care.