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The protagonist, Mary Emma Moody, widowed mother of six, has taken her family east in 1912 to begin a new life. Her son, Ralph, then thirteen, recalls how the Moodys survive that first bleak winter in a Massachusetts town. Money and prospects are lacking, but not so faith and resourcefulness. "Mother" in Little Britches and Man of the Family, Mary Emma emerges fully as a character in this book, and Ralph, no longer called "Little Britches," comes into his own. The family’s run-ins with authority and with broken furnaces in winter are evocative of a full and warm family life.