If I am the Reading Fair judge, one of the ways to undermine your chance of winning is to answer the question of the author’s purpose with “to entertain.” I’ve seen it often enough that it gets no points for originality. However, there are times when that is the total purpose of a book and the total desire of the reader. That purpose and desire merged this holiday season as I read Fannie Flagg’s latest The Whole Town’s Talking. Elmwood Springs, MO serves as the star of the book with the Still Meadow Cemetery as the co-star.
Mysteries in the story are gentle ones. For instance, the first is one that mail-order bride Katrina keeps from her prospective husband Lordor. It turns out to be nothing more than the glasses she needs to wear in order to see, a defect that in no way lessens his admiration of her great beauty. Beginning with this couple in the early settling days of Elmwood Springs in 1889, the timeline stretches through its history and the generations that populate the small community for the next century.
Other mysteries include what happens once people begin turning up in the cemetery and an even stranger one when they begin to disappear from there, and a cemetery resident who keeps anticipating that the next arrival will bring news that his murderer has been found and convicted. However, I wouldn’t want to spoil the story so I will leave these solutions for you to discover on your own.
Typical of Flagg’s writing is the scene when Ida points her celery stick at her banker husband, insisting that he give the local hairdresser a loan for a shop so she can move her business from her back porch. “Herbert knew he would have to give Tot the loan, or he would never hear the end of it. Whenever Ida pointed celery at him, she meant business.”
The book will not increase your intellect, intensify your understanding of the world’s problems, nor inspire you to tackle injustice. It will give you a relaxing holiday afternoon in front of the fire with your cup of hot chocolate, unless you are in South Mississippi. In that case, you will want to be in your shorts in the porch swing. Sometimes being entertained fills a need.