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Growing up hell-raising (but all heart) in Mississippi--as chronicled in the see-all, tell-all, wise-child journal of Daisy Fay Harper, who gets to be Miss Mississippi of 1959 after some truly splendid onstage foul-ups and offstage fixes. Daisy (named for a vase of hospital flowers) is eleven in 1952, when Daddy and Momma move from Jackson to the golden sands of Shell Beach, Miss., where Daddy (known to all four grandparents as ""the worm"") buys part interest in a malt shop with Momma's bingo winnings. Momma's still not happy, of course; she's been planning divorce for some time--mostly on account of Daddy's drinking and bad jokes. And Daisy has to go to the Jr. Debutantes, where Mrs. Dot ""preserves Southern culture"" with talks on ""Accessories"" and Thoughts for the Day. But on the whole Shell Beach is great, with a parade of people whom Daisy finds fascinating: the ""Mississippi Maidens for Freedom,"" marching with boots and guns (the one bazooka, too heavy to carry, is pushed in a wheelchair) to prepare for a Communist invasion; a Bible thumper who gets in trouble for selling Jesus-autographed pictures of ""The Last Supper""; Velveeta, the mean hired help who turns stoolie when Daisy's sand tunnels make the malt shop fall three feet; the timid bald kid for whom Daisy shoplifts a wig; the nice teacher who tells Daisy the facts of life (""l haven't heard one fact of life I liked yet""); plus an assortment of snots and shrimpers, good neighbors and poker players (Daisy's a respected sit-in). Daisy earns money too, by taping the stick-out ears of five-year-old Angel every night. She witnesses a murder and is an accomplice in Daddy's phony-religious-revival scheme. (She gets ""drowned"" and ""resurrected,"" but the revival flops, and there's a crop-duster getaway air-chase). Finally, however, in Jackson in 1958, Daisy will drift into acting, fall in love, be jilted, but make it (sideways) to Miss Mississippi-dom and a New York future. There's more than a fleck of touching humanity in most of the carney originals and volatile failures here; and comedienne Flagg exploits her pro timing and regional satirical bite with a vengeance. Sentiment, hilarity, down-home fun--it's subtitled ""A Wonderful Novel,"" and Fannie ain't just braggin': that's exactly what it is.

Pub Date: May 21st, 1981
Publisher: Morrow