The author of Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop CafÆ’ (1987, etc.) returns with another engaging paean to the joys of down-home southern life. Gorgeous, ambitious Dena Nordstrom is doing very well in 1970s Manhattan. She's the popular star of a network morning show, poised to rise as the ratings-driven TV industry promotes appealing women to make palatable the increasingly nasty interviews that are turning the news into scandalmongering ""entertainment."" Dena barely remembers Elmwood Springs, Missouri, where she spent four happy years before her mysterious mother abruptly left town and embarked on a decade of wandering before vanishing from 15-year-old Dena's life altogether in 1959. But the folks back in Elmwood Springs remember Baby Girl, daughter of a local boy killed in WWII, and Flagg has some obvious but effective fun with the contrast between the townspeople's homey-to-the-verge-of-caricature existence and Dena's high-powered urban-professional lifestyle. Of course, she's not really happy: she drinks too much and has bleeding ulcers that send her, acting reluctantly on doctor's orders, to a handsome psychiatrist (who falls in love with her at first sight, natch) and then back to Elmwood Springs to recuperate from overwork. Readers may share Dena's initial reaction to the relentlessly folksy locals (""Get me out of here,"" she commands her agent), but the New York cast of characters is just as cliched: noble, Walter Cronkite-like anchorman; sleazy network executive; sleazier ""researcher""/dirt-digger. The author does, however, know how to spin a rattling good yarn. Even those who gag at the way she holds up ""Neighbor Dorothy"" and her hokey 1940s radio show as the epitome of small-town goodness will probably find themselves flipping pages rapidly to discover what happened to Dena's mother. The denouement has a clever twist, and if the happy ending is not exactly a surprise, it taps into enough classic American fantasies about getting out of the rat race to be quite moving. Shamelessly corny--and extremely enjoyable.