Can’t Wait to Get to Heaven

Can’t Wait to Get to Heaven

by Fannie Flagg

I’m Kim Alexander and this is Fiction Nation. The book is Can’t Wait to get to Heaven by Fannie Flagg. I grew up knowing Fannie Flagg from Match Game back in the 70s — remember when they would drop the new number into the set at the beginning of the New Year? My grandmother and I used to watch that show every day when I got home from school — I know a lot of the jokes went right over my head, but I loved it anyway. And when you see someone trading quips with Charles Nelson Reilly, it’s hard to imagine them working on a manuscript. So when books by Fannie Flagg started popping up, I assumed it was the same thing as James Dean, actor, and Jimmy Dean, sausage. I was obviously mistaken — you probably know Ms. Flagg from her novel Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Café. And by the way, I know I keep talking about how I want to spotlight new and emerging authors, and yes, this is Ms. Flagg’s 7th, but as my boss Amy Reyer keeps telling me, it’s my show.

Can’t Wait to Get to Heaven takes place in Elmwood Springs, Missouri, where the elderly Mrs. Elner Schimfissle has just climbed a ladder to pick some figs for preserves. No sooner than you can say ‘Call 911,’ Elner becomes the center of a mystery and starts meeting people like Ginger Rogers. The ripple effect of Elner’s adventure touches everyone in town in one way or another, because Elner herself is connected to each of them. We see how news of what happens to Elner moves through the town, from the local DJs to her neighbor Verbena, and even a brief cat’s eye view of the activity (not surprisingly, Sonny the cat is mostly concerned about his next meal).

At first I thought the writing style and the characters were overly simple — almost a stylized version of an idealized small town. Just when I thought that Elmwood Springs existed in a sort of snow globe, too quaint and too perfect, the action switches to the wider world, touching on everything from foreign adoption to the woes of overworked emergency room nurses.  Finally I couldn’t help but look at this book as a parable, where small acts of kindness reverberate through the community and each character struggles to answer the question ‘Why am I here?’ Elner is both a saintly and much loved town elder, but she’s also a woman with a wicked sense of humor, secrets and even a little bit of a past. Her niece is a hysteric and her best friend is dangerously small minded. But again, all of them wind up confronting themselves and asking ‘why?’ and sometimes acting on the answers they find. Sometimes not. That seems honest. Even if you don’t like what you discover, even if you don’t overhaul your life and way of thinking, it’s still not a bad question to ask. (And if you’re not in the mood for self reflection, there is a collection of yummy and very fattening sounding recipes included at the end of this book. I might try making Neighbor Dorothy’s Heavenly Caramel Cake — I’ll keep you posted.)

Can’t Wait to Get to Heaven is by Fannie Flagg, who looks fabulous in her publicity photo and not a bit different than I remember. Now I want to find out whatever happened to Brett Sommers. I’m Kim Alexander and this is Fiction Nation on Book Radio, SiriusXM Channel 80.


I’m Kim Alexander and this is a Fiction Nation minute. The book is Can’t Wait to Get to Heaven by Fannie Flagg.

At first I wasn’t sure about this one, the tale of elderly Mrs. Elner Schimfissle set in the almost too perfectly southern town of Elmwood Springs, Missouri, where people have names like Tots and Verbena, and everyone knows all their neighbor’s business — all very simple and very sweet. But then it wasn’t. Ms Flagg knows how to put just enough spin on her characters to give them dimension, particularly Elner, whom I adored.  And some of these people do have secrets, even from their spouses and children. Can’t Wait to Get to Heaven starts with Elner’s fall from a fig tree, and follows the effects of that accident through the entire town and to both coasts. Everyone in one way or another is put in a position to ask “What am I doing here?” Small acts lead to great ones, and lives are changed, mostly for the better. Can’t Wait to Get to Heaven by Fannie Flagg. I’m Kim Alexander and this is Fiction Nation on Book Radio, SiriusXM Channel 80.


I’m Kim Alexander and this is a Fiction Nation minute. The book is Can’t Wait to Get to Heaven by Fannie Flagg, author of Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Café.

So you know you’re going to get a certain kind of book, and a particular kind of small town setting. I was reminded of Garrison Keillor’s Lake Woebegone. The story revolves around the elderly but still lively Mrs. Elner Schimfissle, who ignores her niece’s advice again and falls off a ladder while picking figs. A simple and sad thing, but it winds up changing if not the world, then the lives of just about everyone in town, and a bunch of lives outside of it as well. Ms. Flagg seems to be saying there are no small acts in our interconnected lives, and her characters ask over and over again, ‘Why am I here?’ In Can’t Wait to Get to Heaven the answers are sometimes surprising even to the characters themselves. Can’t Wait to Get to Heaven by Fannie Flagg. I’m Kim Alexander and this is Fiction Nation on Book Radio, SiriusXM Channel 80.


I’m Kim Alexander and this is a Fiction Nation minute. The book is Can’t Wait to Get to Heaven by Fannie Flagg.

If I had to sum this one up I would say deceptively simple. The story begins with Mrs. Elner Schimfissle and her fateful fall from the fig tree, and follows the news of her accident through the small town of Elmwood Springs, Missouri. Her high strung niece faints, although that’s not unusual. Her good friend, young Luther Griggs, drives his 18-wheeler into a ditch. Everyone in town acts, overreacts and interacts. Are there really towns like that? Can’t Wait to Get to Heaven is, as I said, deceptively simple — after all, what is less simple than the fundamental question of the meaning of life? Throw in mediation on the existence of the soul after death, and the interconnectedness of all human life and you have some big themes. But this book is really more about stopping and bothering to even ask the questions than necessarily finding the answers. We’ll find them eventually, according to the title of this book. Can’t Wait to Get to Heaven by Fannie Flagg. I’m Kim Alexander on Fiction Nation on Book Radio, SiriusXM Channel 80.


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