I hope everyone has been having a wonderful Easter and that you have been able to spend time with your loved ones over the holiday. I was fortunate to have my mother visit for a week, and we spent some time traveling around Texas. While browsing in an Amarillo antique store, I found a gently used hard copy edition of Fannie Flagg’s Can’t Wait to Get to Heaven.
Publication Date: July 4, 2006 / Random House – 384 pgs.
Genres: Contemporary Fiction, Mystery, Humor
Can’t Wait to Get to Heaven (Elmwood Springs # 3) by Fannie Flagg
From the author of Fried Green Tomatoes, comes a comedy-mystery set in a small town. Combining southern warmth with unabashed emotion and sidesplitting hilarity, Fannie Flagg takes readers back to Elmwood Springs, Missouri, where the most unlikely and surprising experiences of a high-spirited octogenarian inspire a town to ponder the age-old question: Why are we here?
Life is the strangest thing. One minute, Mrs. Elner Shimfissle is up in her tree, picking figs, and next thing she knows she is off on an adventure she never dreamed of, running into people she never in a million years expected to meet. Meanwhile, back home, Elner’s nervous, high-strung niece Norma faints and winds up in bed with a cold rag on her head; Elner’s neighbor Verbena rushes immediately to the Bible; her truck driver friend, Luther Griggs, whom Elner has known since he was a boy, runs his eighteen-wheeeler into a ditch-and the entire town is thrown for a loop and left wondering, “What is life all about anyway?” Except for Tot Whooten, who owns Tot’s Tell It Like It Is beauty shop. Her main concern is that the end of the world might come before she can collect her social security.
In this comedy-mystery, those near and dear to Elner discover something wonderful: Heaven is actually right here, right now, with people you love, neighbors you help, friendships you keep. Can’t Wait to Get to Heaven is proof once more that Fannie Flagg “was put on this earth to write” (Southern Living), spinning tales as sweet and refreshing as iced tea on a summer day, with a little extra kick thrown in. (from the book jacket flap)
Remembering how much I loved Flagg’s Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe (both the movie and the novel), I couldn’t resist this bargain-priced book that takes readers into the charms of small town living, full of quirky characters who both touched and tickled me until the very end. My mother is not as much of a reader as I am, so we ended up reading the novel together with her listening as I read aloud. Flagg is a wonderful storyteller whose writing style and voice are so personable that she quickly and easily develops a rapport with the reader.
Set in the tightly-knit community of Elmoood Springs, Missouri, eighty-something-year-old Elner Shimfissle takes center stage in this novel, even though she isn’t directly featured in as many scenes as I expected, considering she is the protagonist. The story opens with Elner’s tragic fall from a fig tree in her yard and leaves you in limbo for much of the first half of the book waiting to discover whether she actually survives the fall. While Elner’s family, friends, and neighbors rush around, wringing their hands, trying to process the fact that this spunky, witty, and wise elderly lady may no longer be around, Elner finds herself on a wondrous, zany, and very personal journey into the hereafter. As the story unfolds, Flagg takes a light-hearted, but meaningful look at some deep philosophical issues that we may endlessly ponder – Why are we here? What is our purpose in life? And the answers? Well, that’s up to us.
Elner is a great character, a strong, enduring woman with a positive outlook on life. Her curious nature and giving spirit make her unforgettable. Much of the book focuses on other characters as they reminiscence and reflect upon the ways Elner significantly influenced their lives. Besides the question of what will happen to Elner, the plot contains another mystery waiting to be solved when one of Elner’s neighbors discovers a gun in the bottom of Elner’s clothesbasket. It’s a secret Elner is determined to take to her grave.
The one theme that most resonated with me is the ripple effect our words, actions, and deeds, no matter how small or seemingly inconsequential can have on others. Can’t Wait to Get to Heaven is a sentimental, perhaps at times a bit saccharine, novel about making the most of the life we are given. It’s a feel-good story that takes place in April, just around Easter time, and a delightful read! Flagg also includes some recipes of dishes mentioned in the book, and “Neighbor Dorothy’s Heavenly Caramel Cake” is one I can’t wait to try out.
While I didn’t get to follow in Elner’s footsteps by watching sunsets, I did take a moment to appreciate the beauty around me and cherish the time spent with my mother.
Surrounded by Bluebonnets: A Texan Tradition
Source: purchased book
Buy from Amazon: Can’t Wait to Get to Heaven: A Novel
Although this book is part of a series, I think it can stand alone. I had no trouble following the plot and connecting with the characters even though I haven’t read the previous two books.
Other Books in this series: