I was eager to read this book for two reasons: first, because I enjoyed Daisy Fay and the Miracle Man, an earlier novel by Fannie Flagg, and second, because Can’t Wait to Get to Heaven takes place in a fictitious small town in Missouri. Having grown up in rural Missouri, I was curious how much Flagg’s creation would match my experience, and I would say she definitely has an accurate sense of place in this novel. It was an odd version of deja vu to see characters going into stores where I have shopped and to hear colloquialisms that I acquired in childhood. Some of the characters’ attitudes were very true to life, and the rhythms of small town life that Flagg depicted felt right, too. I think the only other time I’ve experienced such a familiarity with a novel’s setting was in Nevada Barr’s mysteries involving Anna Pigeon, who is a ranger in the National Park Service. (My first job out of high school was working in the maintenance division of a National Park.)
And maybe this effective grounding is what made Elner Shimfissle’s adventure seem so outlandish to me. I didn’t know what to do with these events since they seemed so out of place. And that may be the whole point–the juxtaposition of the ordinary with the fantastic–but I found it more distracting than intriguing. What I found most interesting was exploring all the threads that bound so many different people to Mrs. Shimfissle and how her actions–big and small–effected each of them.
I really wanted to love this book; instead I found it entertaining but not particularly compelling. So while I enjoyed listening to this audio book (and the reader, Cassandra Campbell, did an excellent job) by the end I was ready to return it to the library and move on to something else.
My Synopsis: Monday, April 1, seemed like a perfectly normal day in Elmwood Springs, Missouri. And there was nothing usual about Elner Shimfissle deciding to pick figs that morning–even though her niece, Norma Warren, kept insisting that an eighty year old woman had no business on a ladder. But this ordinary event sent Elner on a adventure she would never have imagined and turned the small town upside down.
First line: After Elner Shimfissle poked that wasps nest up in her fig tree, the last thing she remembered was thinking, “Uh oh.”
I would recommend this book to: Anyone looking for a light read with a humorous perspective on ordinary life in a small town.
Would I read it again: I doubt it.
My personal rating: 3 out of 5