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Friday, December 29, 2006


Remember Fannie Flagg, the red-haired stand-up comedienne from the 1960s? She had the familiar southern drawl, soft spoken but hysterically funny. I liked her pointed humor then. She co-hosted Candid Camera with Alan Funt, and she was a Match Game regular. She wrote Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop CafĂ©. The book then became the terrific 1991 movie, Fried Green Tomatoes, and Flagg was nominated for an Oscar for her screenplay. She’s written other novels since then, and for our ride down to Myrtle Beach, I picked up the audio book of Fannie Flagg’s Can’t Wait to Get to Heaven. It is absolutely the best audio tape we’ve heard thus far!

BTW, I thought it was amusing to learn that her real name is Patricia Neal, a name, of course, that she couldn’t use professionally. Wonder if her mom was a fan.

Anyway, not only is this a great story, sentimental, funny, and serious all at once, but also Can’t Wait to Get to Heaven is a philosophical exploration into the way we live our lives. Why do some people ride the roller coaster so well? The novel is infused with a palpable southern charm and a small town feeling that is big enough to touch the entire world.

Brilliantly read by Cassandra Campbell who captured the essence of the sad and happy characters and bounces between emotions and events, Fannie Flagg’s tale is refreshingly sweet without being maudlin. It’s not a “chick book.” Rob enjoyed it as much as I. We kept looking at each other as characters disclosed their less attractive sides—and then we’d laugh! We recognized everyone, and some of them were us!

Our heroine, Elner Shimfissle, falls out of her fig tree, thereby launching herself into a wild adventure. She has touched so many diverse people in her long life that the reaction to her accident coming from every segment of the local population astounds the reader. A Bible-toting neighbor, a truck driver Elner knew since he was a boy, her nervous niece Norma and Norma’s gentle husband Mackie, many, many friends, and some very unexpected and unusual characters make their way into this story and are touched by Elner’s way of maneuvering through life’s surreal moments.

Very funny, often touching, I Can’t Wait to Get to Heaven is a mystery-comedy tackling many of the contemporary issues we face. And then some.

Fannie Flagg and her optimistic octogenarian character deals with one of the most difficult questions we ask ourselves: What’s it all about, anyway? And, by golly, they find an answer. Read it and smile. I wonder why it wasn’t made into a movie.

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