Ebb, Neb., is so down on its luck that its name says it all. Then a mysterious angel of mercy arrives in the guise of a traveling salesman peddling games of chance. What he's really selling, as observed by Wilma Porter, owner of the local B&B and the novel's tart-tongued narrator, is hope. When she doesn't try too hard to be folksy, Wilma is a likable guide to Ebb's eccentric characters and good ol' Midwestern truths. (''Farming is a hard-hearted life.... Country boys eat their pets. After that, everything else is easy.'') By the end of the stranger's six-day visit, nearly everyone in In the Land of Second Chances is transformed into his better self, and Chances morphs from Fried Green Tomatoes into a wisecracking It's a Wonderful Life. All that's missing is Jimmy Stewart.