You keep wanting Dixie Riggs to take off. Narrated by a funny, spirited redneck girl, Sarah Gilbert's second novel is like a cheap roller-coaster ride: jerky ups and downs, an occasional leaner around a corner, and lots of flat stretches.
Like the 22-year-old Dixie, most of the characters in the novel have big dreams, and most of them are going nowhere fast. Dixie's main boyfriend, Buck Speed, a muscled clod, can't decide between being Mr. Universe or a televangelist. Dixie wants to become a runway model, but she's several inches too short. She happens to be blessed with great feet, however, a perfect size 6. When an Italian shoe designer signs her to a five-year, six-figure modeling contract, she has her ticket to ride. At novel's end, Dixie is sitting pretty: She has scads of money, she's pregnant, and Buck, who may or may not be the father, has formally proposed, in writing, no less. Dixie's last observation is dead-on: ''Because, you know, it's like, sometimes I think women's biggest problem is, they get all excited over nothing, and then they marry it.'' C+