"Can't Wait to Get to Heaven"
By: Fannie Flagg
Synopsis from Amazon.com:
Life is the strangest thing. One minute, Mrs. Elner Shimfissle is up in her tree, picking figs, and the 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, runs his eighteen-wheeler 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.My Thoughts:
I read my very first Fannie Flagg novel just this past Christmas when I read "A Redbird Christmas," and I think even then I was a fan. When I found out our February book club book was "Can't Wait to Get to Heaven" I was incredibly excited and I just knew I was going to enjoy it. We have about 12 ladies that come to this particular book group and all of them but ONE loved it. So I think that can tell you what kind of a book this truly was.
Elner is our main character who in the very first pages of the book falls out of a tree and gets the town in an uproar. Initially believing Elner died at the hospital, the entire town is effected. The hairdresser immediately heads off to tell the neighbors what has happened, another neighbor goes through Elner's refrigerator, a friend finds a gun hidden in some clothes, someone heads out to kill the snails in Elner's garden, etc. Everyone has a different reaction and I think that's part of the charm of the story. What would you do in that situation? Would you sigh and say oh she had a good life, or would you get out there to her garden and kill every one of the snails that was threatening to take it over?
The secondary characters are enticing but the story is truly about Elner and her effect on the world. While all of the silliness is going on back at home, Elner is lying in a hospital bed and has traveled to "heaven." Flagg's version of heaven is simple yet elegantly situated. It's our favorite place filled with our favorite people and tailored to fit us. No gold roads or angels in this heaven. Some of the ladies in my book group found this part to be a little over the top, but I enjoyed seeing this different view of heaven and understand why people may find it a bit disconcerting.
Elner eventually comes back from heaven, recovers from her fall, and resumes life in her sleepy Missouri town. Things return to normal and yet, people know Elner is a little changed. So, everyone takes a little something different from her near death experience and files it away for their own use. One woman moves to the beach, another man gets married...life is for the living!
Fannie Flagg does a wonderful job of writing people. Sure its over the top, but its sweet, genuine, and definitely fun. The powerful moments are found in the most minute things - a cat that won't die, the previously mentioned mass murder of snails, and baking some brownies with exlax for the kid who threw rocks at your animal. A wonderful book for anyone at any age, I really enjoyed this heartwarming story of heaven and everyone's journey to get there.
Publisher: Ballantine Books
Date of Publication: June 19, 2007
# of Pages: 375