Bentley, Georgia, is the town and the time is WW II as Estes again constructs a loving facsimile of days which in retrospect always seem simpler--although the family of stationmaster Alex Holly, like many of its neighbors, is headed for some heavy weather. Son Paul will soon be in the thick of North African fighting; his twin brother Perry, deaf from birth but on the way to a happy, productive life, will meet a tragic end. Lovable daughter Susie is attracted to a frail, crippled New Englander, whose sabotage activities reflect years of bitterness; and another daughter's marriage survives the sacrificial patriotism of her husband. Around the Hollys, other families suffer loss or plunge into feverish, volunteer work--blood drives, first aid classes, entertaining the boys in uniform. It's all the way it was--from December 7th to VJ Day--although there were probably more of us dancing the Victory Polka than musing with Alex: ""Somebody was the cause of ail this. . . people sitting at home like we are. . . Whether it's been right or wrong, we've got to be thankful it's over."" Estes' people talk just fine--in kitchens or grocery stores--but somehow they are not particularly vital. What comes on strong and clear is that homefront small town whose main streets ""suddenly ran out of young men.