Book Review: Can't Wait to Get to Heaven

February 28, 2016

Can't Wait to Get to Heaven
Fannie Flagg
You might like this book if you like small town stories that frame up simple truths and the value of relationships.

This book was recommended to me by a friend whose literary tastes I trust, so I was ready to love this book from the get-go. I'd never read anything by Fannie Flagg, and have only seen the film version of one of her other books once, a long time ago. I was starting with a blank slate.

At first, the book seemed dismissible as a simplistic narrative of small-town life centered around a rather strange main character. As you learn more about that main character however, the story becomes much more difficult to dismiss. I will not soon forget Elner Shimfissle. She is honest, kind, strong and in some ways, an innocent, at least for the purpose of this story. She is also a canny and keen observer of people as well as a builder of relationships. She's no fool, and she loves wholeheartedly. The rarity of this blend of character traits in the world today makes her a refreshing heroine who is easy to love. She is the fully-fashioned center of a cast of characters who serve, by being crafted much more one-dimensionally, to highlight the many flavors of human-kind. All the foibles are represented, from fear to braggadocio and just about everything in between.

As the story opens, the elderly Elner lives alone and is just trying to harvest some figs from the tree in her own yard. Along come some wasps, an allergic reaction and a terrible fall from a ladder. This sets off a series of events through which the author is able to craft a kind of parable about the very meaning of life. I say parable with good reason. Just as in the Bible, one can read this story on the surface and get some laughs, consider a few sweet anecdotes about life and death, then move on down the line. However, one can also look deeper into how Elner interacts with the world and discover actual keys to happiness.

I finally found time to read this book after many failed attempts. It's my first paper book in quite a while, and the sweetness of the story gave me a good, purifying cry at a needed time. Not only is Fannie Flagg a writer of enjoyable and readable stories, she seems to understand human nature well enough for each of us to find ourselves in one or more of her characters and be able to explore the consequences of our behavior before it is too late. She managed to do this for me without preaching, dogmatism, or monologuing. I just wanted to be more like Elner, that's all.

I'd love to know what you think.

1 comment

Thank you for sharing your insights!

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