This autobiographical novel by a woman who, before her defection, was a cadre member in mainland China, lacks grace and subtlety, but we are persuaded by the sincerity of her account.
Ying-ying, the author, joins the Communists. She is sent to the village of Longxiang (Dragon's Village). Its inhabitants are desparately poor, ignorant, suspicious, and brutish.
While attempting to present the wonders of the revolution to the peasants, Ying-ying endures a life of extreme hardship. The cadres don't know how to carry out a vast social and political experiment, and Ying-ying is astonished by her own cruel and arbitrary judgments.