Welcome to the World, Baby Girl!
Dena Nordstrom, a beautiful and hard-edged television journalist known for asking tough questions but called “Baby Girl” by her country relatives, suffers career-related stress that sends her back to her hometown of Elmwood Springs, Missouri. Dena’s therapist suggests that she confront her past, including the mysterious disappearance of her mother from her life when Dena was just fifteen, so Dena tries to reconstruct who she is and where she came from.
The town is full of folksy characters reminiscent of those in Fannie Flagg’s earlier Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe (1987), and even the New York characters, Dena’s mentor Howard Kingsley and her boss Ira Wallace are depicted with a touch of country charm. The story is interesting and engaging, moving from the present (1970’s) to the past (1940’s) as it tells Dena’s story and unfolds a family secret. However, Welcome to the World, Baby Girl! is ultimately unsatisfying.
Flagg paints Dena’s country relatives as a lovable, simple bunch, while Wallace and tabloid journalist Sidney Capello are depicted as mean, nefarious city folk. Dena is more like Wallace and Capello than anyone in Elmwood Springs. It is hard to feel sympathy for her, and her turnaround at the end of the novel and the doggish devotion of her psychiatrist turned boyfriend in the face of her harsh treatment is beyond belief.