On brain-frying day in Splendora, East Texas, the prissy, cacophonous ladies who set the town's cultural tone are dazzled by the premature arrival of the new librarian--Miss Jessie Gatewood with her leg-o'-mutton sleeves, Gibson-girl hair, and an indefinable ""something"" of allure. Jessie's hidden something is the fact that underneath the clothes ""she"" is Timothy John, grandson of Splendora's wildly eccentric Esther Ruth; in New Orleans, Timothy decided to transform himself, exterior-wise, from a despised homosexual into sensational Jessie. ""Jessie"" has a voice like a sigh through pine trees, and it emerges in frolicsome Victorianese: ""I hope you don't find my behavior too forthright or in any way shapeless."" Once ensconced in Esther Ruth's house, ""Jessie"" does for Splendora what Harold Hill did for River City--settles feuds and unites the town in worthy projects--while the inner Timothy reconstructs his loony childhood with Esther Ruth, who clothed him in dresses and curls, kept life-sized dolls, planted artificial flowers, and massacred hummingbirds. Then Jessie/Timothy falls in love with a preacher while the adoring town follows the courtship. True love unmasks Timothy for the preacher, who, happily, has his little secret. After a smashing demolition and fire in which ""Jessie"" perishes, the two lovers romp off. Funny, a bit witchy, and with a trace of bitter verisimilitude--a most entertaining first novel.