"The way of a Serpent" tells the story of a farmer family in a poverty-stricken region in the northern parts of Sweden in the nineteenth century. The family formerly owned its land, but had to sell it cheap during a succession of years of famine. The new owner collects his rent as long as there is money in the household, and exploits the women when there is no money.
It is a surprisingly thin novel, considering the width of its content and specifically that it spans over three generations. The language is stark and spartan, and is heavily influenced by the local dialect. The main theme is the family's struggle for survival, where both the mother and the daughters have to contribute to indulge their creditor.
The novel is considered to be one of Lindgren's greatest works, and was made into a film by Bo Widerberg in 1986.