Random House: 11/29/16
eBook review copy; 432 pages
hardcover ISBN-13: 9781400065950
The Whole Town's Talking by Fannie Flagg is a highly recommended sweet, charming novel that follows the residents of Elmwood Springs, Missouri, from 1889 to 2021. Elmwood Springs was founded by Swedish immigrants, specifically Lordor Nordstrom. At the beginning of The Whole Town's Talking the citizens in the area, before they are even officially a town, mark out on a hill where the cemetery is going to be and choose an area for their family plots and final resting places. They name it Still Meadows, which it is anything but still or restful, as you will hear in the future.
Lordor advertises for a wife and Katrina replies, a young Swedish woman living in Chicago. They exchange pictures and letters. The women in the town try to help Lordor's cause, assuring Katrina that "Lordor is a good eater and has all his teeth" and that it "is not like Sweden here. We do not let the men rule with an iron hand. We are all free American women in Missouri." Katrina accepts his invitation to come to Missouri and Lordor pleads with her to "Please hurry. All the ladies around here are busy trying to improve me as well. By the time you get here, I may be over-improved and not much good for anything.
After the opening Flagg introduces us to the citizens and families of Elmwood Springs and follows the happenings decade by decade. It's an epic novel for those who like sentimental lighthearted novels that are extremely well written. Flagg has always been a wonderful story-teller and she brings that innate gift to bear on The Whole Town's Talking. It is a pleasant, feel-good story, but it is also a witty, funny tour through the decades with the citizens of Elmwood Springs. There are a few serious and sad moments, but the citizens pull together and keep a positive outlook on life.
Soon enough readers will learn that once you have reached your final resting place in Still Meadows, you may be resting, but the meadows are anything but still as those interred there are able to talk to each other until they mysteriously seem to just quietly disappear. Just as the community below the hill is active, the discussions are also ongoing on the hill top. I especially appreciated the thoughts at the end from Macky who is worried about the country because he felt something was rotting from the inside, a slow decay of what was right and wrong. If you would find the idea of souls living on talking to each other objectionable, then you might want to skip this one. If that isn't going to bother you, then this is a pleasant comforting stroll through the decades with the citizens of a small town.
Disclosure: My advanced reading copy was courtesy of the publisher/author.