Review

Can't Wait to Get to Heaven

by Fannie Flagg



What happens to you when you die? That's the big question Fannie
Flagg tackles in her latest novel, and she uses the kind-hearted
inhabitants of Elmwood Springs to address this debate. After
80-something Elner Shimfissle falls off her ladder, she's brought
to the hospital where she finds herself floating down hallways and
into elevators that go in every direction, including sideways, thus
embarking on her journey to Heaven. And in keeping with her
personality, she has a lot of questions for her maker. At the same
time, Elner's worrywart niece Norma and Norma's loving and loyal
husband Macky are at her side. The news of her accident spreads
through the town like wildfire, and each resident reflects on Elner
and how she touched their lives. Elner was a mother and grandmother
all rolled into one for Luther Griggs, who has no parents to speak
of.


Like good neighbors, the women of Elmwood Springs waste no time
descending on the scene of the accident at Elner's house. Tot
Whooten, of Tot's Tell it Like it Is Beauty Salon, and Ruby
Robinson rush over to make sure someone feeds her cat and that
things are in order, so poor Norma won't have to return to a mess.
Ruby is shocked by the discovery she makes in the bedroom. Why
would a woman like Elner keep a gun in her dirty laundry
basket?


At the same time, Elner's journey to Heaven continues. Was that
just Ginger Rogers who passed her in the hallway? She sees her
sister Ida (Norma's mother), deceased for many years now, who will
act as her initial escort on her heavenly journey. Ida takes no
time reprimanding Elner for not honoring her dead sister's wish and
letting that Tot Whooten do her hair for her funeral, even though
she specifically asked for someone else. Even in the afterlife, you
still have to listen to someone gripe. But as her sister explains,
each one of us is ushered into Heaven by someone special to us.
Each person gets a slightly different experience; it's tailor-made
for the individual.


Elner Shimfissle, a minor character in the other Elmwood Springs
novels, moves to the forefront here with her infectious curiosity
and good cheer. She allows the author to discuss topics such as
death and the afterlife, with a breezy, upbeat tone. Her characters
and situations might seem corny or sentimental in anyone else's
hands, but Flagg effortlessly transports you to a world of old ---
a place where your front porch was the place to go, where neighbors
looked out for each other, and a cool glass of iced tea cured all
the world's ills.


The mystery aspect of the story feels a bit tacked on, but the
musings on Heaven and life are charming and comforting. And no
story about kindly neighbors and small towns would be complete
without a few good recipes like "Neighbor Dorothy's Heavenly
Caramel Cake" and "Mrs. McWilliams' Corn Bread" --- recipes as
sweet and wholesome as the story itself.


   










Reviewed by Bronwyn Miller on December 26, 2010

Can't Wait to Get to Heaven
by Fannie Flagg

  • Publication Date: June 19, 2007
  • Genres: Fiction
  • Paperback: 375 pages
  • Publisher: Ballantine Books
  • ISBN-10: 0345494881
  • ISBN-13: 9780345494887