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Thousands of small towns in rural America are being depopulated, or "hollowed out." The brightest and most ambitious young people, dubbed "Achievers" by husband and wife researchers Carr and Kefalas, abandon the heartland for greater challenges and rewards in cities. Their less talented and/or less ambitious brothers and sisters, the "Stayers," remain in places like smalltown Ohio, where the ethnographers surveyed 275 graduates of a local high school. Deft and detailed case studies bring the population to life, making the poor prognosis heartrending. While the authors insist that "with a plan and a vision" smalltown America can be revitalized, evidence to the contrary seems overwhelming. Globalization, the growth of agribusiness and the Achievers' hunger for "cultural vibrancy" suggest that the brain drain will not be replaced with a "brain gain"-despite the addition of scattered "Returners" and immigrants. Some analysts suggest that remaining human populations be relocated from the Great Plains and the land be restored to a vast Buffalo Commons, a "venue for bison and prairie restoration"; others foresee the region becoming a bastion for sustainable agriculture and green energy. Whatever the future may hold, the authors alert readers to this major change with clarity and compassion. (Oct.)Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.