Martha Drusso, accidentally gets pregnant and is thrown out of her home. She ends up in Tulsa, Oklahoma, during the dust bowl days. She is staying at a mission where she helps serve the needy in return for her room in board. One day, she finds an abandoned boy, R.C., who she takes in. Some weeks later, she helps a pregnant woman deliver, who later dies in childbirth. Now she has another mouth to feed. But she can't abandon the boy and the girl who need her. The three live as well as they can. One day, Martha has to return to Texas to go to her father's funeral. The children get anxious because she has not returned and the mission is threatening to throw them out. R.C. buys them a train ticket despite the fact he is only about 8 years old and Belle is now 3. While getting them something to eat, the train on which he left his stepsister pulls out. And unfortunately it is not bound for Texas it is going to L.A. R.C. gets on the correct train and finds Martha only to tell her the tragic news. The two spend the rest of the book, wondering if they will ever find her and wondering if she is still alive. Martha also laments over her lost love Charlie who ran off with another woman. The writer cleverly interweaves three story lines--that of what happens to Belle, that of Martha and R.C. and the other children she takes in, and that of Charlie who will one day come home to Texas. Belle's life changes the most as each turn brings her further out of poverty. She lives first at a parsonage, then she is left with a Japanese couple who love her very much because they can't have their own. She doesn't understand why the Japanese are taken away during WWII. Neither does she understand the later hatred of black people that she encounters when she is with her black housekeeper. She lives with a wealthy couple in Arkansas, before ending up finally in California, marrying a hollywood producer, and then ending up a widow a few years later. Somehow, by the end, the small family reunites through very unusual circumstances.
This report prepared by BethG