Returning to Elmwood Springs, Mo., (where her sprawling 2002 novel, Standing in the Rainbow, chronicled the small town's inhabitants over five decades), Flagg keeps this outing much more tightly-focused; most of the novel takes place over a few days. Octogenarian Elner Shimfissle falls off a ladder after accidentally disturbing a hornets' nest while picking figs. After she dies at the hospital, the novel's bite-size chapters alternate between funny and touching vignettes showing how Elner's death and life has affected dozens of people in town, interspersed with scenes of Elner's laugh-out-loud assent into the hereafter. From there, the plot offers readers a series of delightful surprises. Perhaps Flagg's funniest novel since her debut, Daisy Fay and the Miracle Man, she's created a charming, life-affirming tale and a full cast of memorable characters, including Elner's late sister, Ida, who greets her in heaven still carrying her purse and a grudge about the bad hair styling she got for her funeral. Flagg is an expert at balancing pathos with plenty of Southern sass, and this could very well be the feel-good read of the summer.
Reviewed on: 07/03/2006 Release date: 07/01/2006 Genre: Fiction