A quiet little dying-to-come-of-age novel about a farmgirl during the Fifties, written by the author of Let the Bastards Freeze in the Dark (1980--not reviewed). At just 11, Alberta Whiting already knows everything there is to know about her hometown (Adair, Oregon, population 198) and its people--indeed, ``They couldn't make a sound she didn't know.'' Still, she and the author show us around, chatting with Grandma, who owns the farm, secretly eats store-bought cupcakes, and frowns even when she sleeps; watching Alberta's mama sunbathe and contemplating how her wildly exotic origins (she's from Alabama) make her different from everybody else; helping the farmhands with the haying while drawing out handsome Hank on what he and his girlfriend do in his car's backseat; peddling into town on Alberta's bike; visiting Great-uncle Edmund at his dilapidated gold claim; twirling the baton; and more. Fortunately, Alberta's life takes a small jog when she learns that her cousin Martha Lee is coming for a visit. So Alberta starts making up stories with which to impress Martha Lee, and gets so jumpy that she has a run-in with Grandma, during which the dreadful old woman admits that the family's founding father really was something of a skunk. Martha Lee shows up and confuses Alberta by being scared of cows but brave enough to drink wine. And then Martha Lee leaves, and Alberta returns to dreaming about going to stewardess school. It's all very vivid, nicely written, with a sharp sense of a girl's world. But since puberty is the only change one could expect for Alberta and the author doesn't really dip into that, the book's a nonstarter--placid and purposeless.