Sunday, July 26, 2009

Can't Wait to Get to Heaven by Fannie Flagg

What a joyful treat it is to read a Fannie Flagg book. She is definitely one of my favorite southern writers. If you like your green tomatoes fried and your ice tea sweet, Fannie should be on your to read list. Fannie began writing and producing television specials when she was only 19 and went on to become an actress and writer for film, theater, and TV. She's an Alabama girl (like me), and her books are always rich, comedic, and charming with poignant narrative.

In this book we return to Elmwood Springs and a set of characters we first met in "Welcome to the World Baby Girl" and then revisited in "Standing in the Rainbow".

Norma Warren's aunt, Elner Shimfissle (a minor character in the other books who commands center stage in this one), accidentally disturbs a nest of wasps while picking figs from a tree in her yard, and after receiving multiple stings, falls from the ladder knocking herself out. The next thing she knows she is off on the strangest adventure of her life. Meanwhile Norma's high strung niece faints and takes to her bed, Elner's neighbor Verbena rushes to the Bible, her truck driver friend Luther runs his 18 wheeler into a ditch and the entire town is thrown for a loop and left wondering what life is all about anyway.

The best thing about this book is the characters. They have an obvious love for one another and Fannie manages to capture that close-knit feeling of community that is prevalent in small town life. One of my favorite characters is Tot Wooten, from the Tell it Like it Is Beauty Shop, who is concerned that the end of the world will come before she can collect her social security.

The book is packed with morals, messages, and home spun wisdom and Fannie's trademark humor applied to social commentary. There are even some bonus recipes in the back, including Neighbor Dorothy's Heavenly Caramel Cake, a recipe as sweet as the book itself. These same characters and situations might seem a bit corny in somebody else's hands, but Fannie manages to pull it off with aplomb and style. You know these people, and more importantly, you love these people. And we all learn together that heaven is actually right here, right now, with people you love, neighbors you help, and friendships you keep.

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