Can't Wait to Get to Heaven by Fannie Flagg was originally published in 2006. My hardcover copy has 365 pages, including the recipes in the back. As Flagg takes us back to Elmwood Springs, fans will recognize many familiar characters. While contemplating what to write for this review, I need to make it clear that Can't Wait to Get to Heaven is going to have some powerful appeal to Flagg's fans. New readers might be put off by the cast of characters and should really start with Welcome to the World Baby Girl and Standing in the Rainbow before Can't Wait to Get to Heaven. This is really a book for her fans. Fans will view Can't Wait to Get to Heaven as a treasured visit with old friends.
Now, there is, in fact, a visit to heaven in Can't Wait to Get to Heaven. If I judge Flagg's book solely on that, her rating by me plummets. If you are looking for a book to read about getting to heaven, this isn't the one you want. Flagg's view of heaven through Aunt Elner is simplistic, silly, and a tad bit stupid. But, if you've been reading Flagg's books you'll ignore that because of her character's humor and charm. This book is pure sequel escapism, not a treatise on theology. I want to rate it a 4.5 for fans and a 3 for the general reading population, who would likely skip over this book anyway, so we're compromising with a rating of 3.75.
Synopsis from cover:
Combining southern warmth with unabashed emotion and side-splitting hilarity, Fannie Flagg takes readers back to Elmwood Springs, Missouri, where the most unlikely and surprising experiences of a high-spirited octogenarian inspire a town to ponder the age-old question: Why are we here?
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.
In this comedy-mystery, those near and dear to Elner discover something wonderful: Heaven is actually right here, right now, with people you love, neighbors you help, friendships you keep. Can’t Wait to Get to Heaven is proof once more that Fannie Flagg “was put on this earth to write” (Southern Living), spinning tales as sweet and refreshing as iced tea on a summer day, with a little extra kick thrown in.
"After Elner Shimfissle accidentally poked that wasps' nest up in her fig tree, the last thing she remembered was thinking 'Uh-oh.' " first sentence
"I'm in big trouble now....I may have just lost ladder privileges for life." pg. 5
"He had learned the hard way; whenever there was a problem with Aunt Elner, having Norma there only made matters worse, so he made Norma stay at home until he could get to Elner's and size up the situation." pg. 7
"As far as Norma was concerned there was no excuse for having bad taste anymore, or at least, none that she could think of, when all you had to do was look in magazines and simply copy what you saw, or watch the design shows on the Home & Garden Channel." pg. 10-11
"Norma had been waiting for years for something like this to happen, and now that it had, she was glad she'd had the foresight to plan for it. Ten years ago she had prepared a file marked HOSPITAL EMERGENCY, AUNT ELNER." pg. 15
" 'Now I read that even Canada hates us...Canada! And we just love them, everybody's always wanting to go up there and visit. I never knew Canada hated us. Did you?'
'No, I didn't....I always thought Canada was our friendly neighbor to the north.' " pg. 38
"Norma, for example, was a neat freak. Macky used to say that he was scared to get up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom because by the time he got back, she would have made the bed." pg. 47
"Tot's children had been nothing but trouble from the beginning, even more so after they hit puberty. If there was a fool within fifty miles, they had either married it or had numerous offspring with it. Tot had begged her children to please stop breeding." Pg. 88