Tuesday, February 16, 2021

Books I've Read: The Whole Town's Talking


I've always liked Fannie Flagg's books.  They're quirky and fun and usually set in small towns filled with characters.  The first of her books I read set in Elmwood Springs was Welcome to the World Baby Girl, which I loved.  Since then, I have read other books set in the town, telling the stories of the townsfolk and their adventures.  

This book goes through the history of Elmwood Springs, from its Swedish founder Lordor Nordstrom (great-grandfather to Dena Nordstrom, the protagonist in Welcome to the World Baby Girl) to the 21st century, showing how a town grows and changes, but some things - and families - remain.

It is a lively town, full of characters, many of whom will be familiar to those who have read Flagg's other books.  Who could forget the kooky, irrepressible Aunt Elner and her fig preserves?  Or Poor Tot, the terrible hairdresser whose clients continue going to her out of sympathy for her having to live with an alcoholic husband and two ungrateful, no-good kids?

This book follows all these characters and more as they are born, grow up and eventually die and are buried in Still Meadows, the town cemetery.  But death is not the end for those living in Elmwood Springs.  The cemetery is a hive of activity once the dead start gathering there, and they remain engaged in town life from the grave as each new arrival brings news of those left behind.

This is a fun, quick read, but is actually so much more than just that.  It is a portrait of a town and a community.  It's easy to imagine that there are hundreds or thousands more towns that would have a similar history with just as many intertwined stories and events to tell.  It's a portrait of change and growth, and then of decline as a once-thriving small town begins its decline as larger cities encroach with their malls and other opportunities.

I don't think you need to have read any of the other Elmwood Springs books to enjoy this one, but it's certainly and interesting companion piece, particularly in that this book does not even mention Neighbor Dorothy, the homespun radio personality who has been integral to most of Flagg's other Elmwood Springs books and is probably among its most famous residents.

So I'd recommend this book.  Even if you never read another of Flagg's Elmwood Springs books, this is a timeless portrait of a town and a lifestyle we may never see again.

But don't just listen to me.  Here's the blurb:  

Elmwood Springs, Missouri, is a small town like any other, but something strange is happening at the cemetery. Still Meadows, as it’s called, is anything but still. Original, profound, The Whole Town’s Talking, a novel in the tradition of Thornton Wilder’s Our Town and Flagg’s own Can’t Wait to Get to Heaven, tells the story of Lordor Nordstrom, his Swedish mail-order bride, Katrina, and their neighbors and descendants as they live, love, die, and carry on in mysterious and surprising ways.

Lordor Nordstrom created, in his wisdom, not only a lively town and a prosperous legacy for himself but also a beautiful final resting place for his family, friends, and neighbors yet to come. “Resting place” turns out to be a bit of a misnomer, however. Odd things begin to happen, and it starts the whole town talking.

With her wild imagination, great storytelling, and deep understanding of folly and the human heart, the beloved Fannie Flagg tells an unforgettable story of life, afterlife, and the remarkable goings-on of ordinary people. In The Whole Town’s Talking, she reminds us that community is vital, life is a gift, and love never dies.

1 comment:

  1. I love Fannie Flagg! :DDD This one's going to the top of my list.