Never prosperous even in the best of times, during the Great Depression Ty Ty Walden and his extended family are trying to get by in rural Georgia on nothing but libido, hostility, and holes.
Ty Ty, his son Shaw and son-in-law Buck spend their days digging for gold.
They’ve dug up most of the farm except God’s Little Acre, the proceeds of which Ty Ty has devoted to the church.
Whenever Ty Ty gets a feeling that the mother lode lies beneath God’s Little Acre, he moves the boundaries of the acre.
Believing in “scientific” knowledge that albinos have miraculous powers to find gold, Ty Ty and the boys capture an albino they learn is working nearby.
Ty Ty summons daughter Rosamond and her husband, Will, an unemployed mill worker, to come help them dig in the place the albino points out.
Will and Buck have never gotten along.
Buck thinks, correctly, that Will is after his wife, Griselda.
Shaw thinks whatever Buck thinks.
It’s not long before the three men come to blows.
Ty Ty, Rosamund, and Griselda go to wheedle money from another of Ty Ty’s sons, Jim Leslie.
Jim Leslie abandoned his father’s gold-diggings for real estate investments.
One look at Griselda, and Jim Leslie is determined to have her.
There are more characters and more couplings, but you get the idea. By comparison to God’s Little Acre, Lady Chatterley’s Lover is a a moral treatise.
Ty Ty sums up the point of the novel thus:
God put us in the bodies of animal and tried to make us act like people. That was the beginning of trouble. If He had made us like we are, and not called us people, the last one of us would know how to live. A man can’t live, feeling himself from the inside, and listening to what the preachers say. He can’t do both, but he can do one or the other. He can live like we were made to live, and feel himself on the inside or he can live like the preachers say, and be dead on the inside….When you try to take a woman or a man and hold him off all for yourself, there ain’t going to be nothing but trouble and sorrow the rest of your days.
The term God’s little acre has come to stand for hypocrisy, setting aside something worthless for God while living without any regard for Him.
That really doesn’t fit the novel.
The Waldens shouldn’t be called hypocrites: They haven’t enough moral sense to rise that far.