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Can't Wait to Get to Heaven

Can't Wait to Get to Heaven

4.2 130
by Fannie Flagg

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Combining southern warmth with unabashed emotion and side-splitting hilarity, Fannie Flagg takes readers back to Elmwood Springs, Missouri, where the most unlikely and surprising experiences of a high-spirited octogenarian inspire a town to ponder the age-old question: Why are we here?

Life is the strangest thing. One minute, Mrs. Elner Shimfissle is up in her


Combining southern warmth with unabashed emotion and side-splitting hilarity, Fannie Flagg takes readers back to Elmwood Springs, Missouri, where the most unlikely and surprising experiences of a high-spirited octogenarian inspire a town to ponder the age-old question: Why are we here?

Life is the strangest thing. One minute, Mrs. Elner Shimfissle is up in her tree, picking figs, and the next thing she knows, she is off on an adventure she never dreamed of, running into people she never in a million years expected to meet. Meanwhile, back home, Elner’s nervous, high-strung niece Norma faints and winds up in bed with a cold rag on her head; Elner’s neighbor Verbena rushes immediately to the Bible; her truck driver friend, Luther Griggs, runs his eighteen-wheeler into a ditch–and the entire town is thrown for a loop and left wondering, “What is life all about, anyway?” Except for Tot Whooten, who owns Tot’s Tell It Like It Is Beauty Shop. Her main concern is that the end of the world might come before she can collect her social security.

In this comedy-mystery, those near and dear to Elner discover something wonderful: Heaven is actually right here, right now, with people you love, neighbors you help, friendships you keep. Can’t Wait to Get to Heaven is proof once more that Fannie Flagg “was put on this earth to write” (Southern Living), spinning tales as sweet and refreshing as iced tea on a summer day, with a little extra kick thrown in.

From the Hardcover edition.

Editorial Reviews

Charlotte Hays
What saves this book from being more sugary than Neighbor Dorothy's Heavenly Caramel Cake is Flagg's unerring eye for human foibles.
— The Washington Post
Publishers Weekly
The only thing more enjoyable than reading a Fannie Flagg novel is having Flagg read it aloud herself. A born storyteller, Flagg is a marvelous reader with a warm, welcoming Alabama accent. She immediately puts listeners at ease, priming them for an engrossing yarn that will mix laugh-out-loud hilarity with unabashed sentiment in a novel as thoughtful as it is delightful. Returning to Elmwood Springs, Miss. (the setting of two previous novels), Flagg focuses on a handful of days following octogenarian Elner Shimfissle's fatal fall from a tree. As listeners check in on various residents in town to see how they're reacting to the news and remembering how their lives were touched by the old woman, Flagg alternates bite-size chapters detailing Elner's journey to the afterlife. Flagg completely embodies her delightful characters, adapting a slight vocal scratch for eternally optimistic Elner, a flatter drawl for the ever-complaining hairdresser Tot and a sweet innocence as Elner's hilariously nervous niece, Norma. An uplifting delight. Simultaneous release with the Random House hardcover (reviewed online). (July) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.

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Random House Publishing Group
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Chapter 1

Elmwood Springs, Missouri.

Monday, April 1

9:28 am, 74 degrees and sunny

After Elner Shimfissle accidentally poked that wasps’ nest up in her fig tree, the last thing she remembered was thinking “Uh-oh.” Then, the next thing she knew, she was lying flat on her back in some hospital emergency room, wondering how in the world she had gotten there. There was no emergency room at the walk-in clinic at home, so she figured she had to be at least as far away as Kansas City. “Good Lord,” she thought. “Of all the crazy things to have happen this morning.” She had just wanted to pick a few figs and make a jar of fig preserves for that nice woman who had brought her a basket of tomatoes. And now here she was with some boy wearing a green shower cap and a green smock, looking down at her, all excited, talking a mile a minute to five other people running around the room, also in green shower caps, green smocks, and little green paper booties on their feet. Elner suddenly wondered why they weren’t wearing white anymore. When had they changed that rule? The last time she had been to a hospital was thirty-four years ago, when her niece, Norma, had given birth to Linda; they had all worn white then. Her next-door neighbor Ruby Robinson, a bona fide professional registered nurse, still wore white, with white shoes and stockings and her snappy little cap with the wing tips. Elner thought white looked more professional and doctorlike than the wrinkly, baggy green things these people had on, and it wasn’t even a pretty green to boot.

She had always loved a good neat uniform, but the last time her niece and her niece’s husband had taken her to the picture show, she had been disappointed to see that the movie ushers no longer wore uniforms. In fact, they didn’t even have ushers anymore; you had to find your own seat. “Oh well,” thought Elner, “they must have their reasons.”

Then she suddenly began to wonder if she had turned off her oven before she had gone out in the yard to pick figs; or if she had fed her cat, Sonny, his breakfast yet. She also wondered what that boy in the ugly green shower cap and those other people leaning over, busy poking at her, were saying. She could see their lips moving all right, but she had not put her hearing aid on this morning, and all she could hear was a faint beeping noise, so she decided to try to take a little nap and wait for her niece Norma to come get her. She needed to get back home to check on Sonny and her stove, but she was not particularly looking forward to seeing her niece, because she knew she was going to get fussed at, but good. Norma was a highly nervous sort of a person and, after Elner’s last fall, had told her time and time again, not to get up on that ladder and pick figs. Norma had made her promise to wait and let Macky, Norma’s husband, come over and do it for her; and now not only had Elner broken a promise, this trip to the emergency room was sure to cost her a pretty penny.

A few years ago, when her neighbor Tot Whooten had gotten that needle-nosed hound fish stuck in her leg and wound up in the emergency room, Tot said they had charged her a small fortune. On reflection, Elner now realized that she probably should have called Norma; she had thought about calling, but she hadn’t wanted to bother poor Macky for just a few figs. Besides, how could she know there was a wasps’ nest up in her tree? If it weren’t for them, she would have been up and down that ladder with her figs, making fig preserves by now, and Norma would have been none the wiser. It was the wasps’ fault; they had no business being up there in the first place. But at this point she knew that all the excuses in the world would not hold much water with Norma. “I’m in big trouble now,” she thought, before she drifted off. “I may have just lost ladder privileges for life.”

8:11 am

Earlier that morning Norma Warren, a still pretty brunette woman in her sixties, had been at home thumbing through her Linens for Less catalog, trying to decide whether or not to order the yellow tone-on- tone floral design chenille bedspread, or the cool seersucker 100-percent-cotton-with-plenty-of-pucker in sea foam green with ribbon stripes on a crisp white background, when her aunt’s neighbor, and Norma’s beautician, Tot Whooten, had called and informed her that her Aunt Elner had fallen off the ladder again. Norma had hung up the phone and immediately run to the kitchen sink and thrown cold water in her face to keep herself from fainting. She had a tendency to faint when she was upset. Then she quickly picked up the wall phone and dialed her husband Macky’s cell phone number at work.

Macky, who was the manager of the hardware department at The Home Depot out at the mall, glanced at the readout of the number calling and answered.

“Hey, what’s up?”

“Aunt Elner’s fallen off the ladder again!” said Norma frantically. “You’d better get over there right now. God knows what she’s broken. She could be lying over in her yard, dead for all I know. I told you we should have taken that ladder away from her!”

Macky, who had been married to Norma for forty-three years and was used to her fits of hysteria, particularly where her Aunt Elner was concerned, said, “All right, Norma, just calm down, I’m sure she’s fine. She hasn’t killed herself yet, has she?”

“I told her not to get on that ladder again, but does she listen to me?”

Macky started walking toward the door, past plumbing supplies, and spoke to a man on the way out. “Hey, Jake, take over for me. I’ll be right back.”

Norma continued talking a mile a minute in his ear. “Macky, call me the minute you get there, and let me know, but if she’s dead, don’t even tell me, I can’t handle a tragedy right now. . . . Oh I could just kill her. I knew something like this was going to happen.”

“Norma, just hang up and try to relax, go sit in the living room, and I’ll call you in a few minutes.”

“This is it, I am taking that ladder away from her as of today. The very idea of an old woman like her . . .”

“Hang up, Norma.”

“She could have broken every bone in her body.”

“I’ll call you,” he said, and hung up.

Macky walked out to the back parking lot, got in his Ford SUV and headed over to Elner’s house. He had learned the hard way; whenever there was a problem with Aunt Elner, having Norma there only made matters worse, so he made Norma stay at home until he could get to Elner’s and size up the situation.

After Macky hung up, Norma ran into the living room like he had said to do, but she certainly could not calm down or even sit down until he called to tell her everything was all right. I swear to God, she thought, if she hasn’t killed herself this time, not only am I taking that ladder away from

From the Hardcover edition.

Meet the Author

Fannie Flagg began writing and producing television specials at age nineteen and went on to distinguish herself as an actress and writer in television, films, and the theater. She is the author of the New York Times bestsellers Daisy Fay and the Miracle Man, Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe (which was produced by Universal Pictures as Fried Green Tomatoes), Welcome to the World, Baby Girl!, Standing in the Rainbow, and A Redbird Christmas. Flagg’s script for Fried Green Tomatoes was nominated for both the Academy and Writers Guild of America awards and won the highly regarded Scripters Award. Flagg lives in California and in Alabama.

From the Hardcover edition.

Brief Biography

Montecito, California
Date of Birth:
September 21, 1944
Place of Birth:
Birmingham, Alabama
The University of Alabama

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Can't Wait to Get to Heaven 4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 130 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Ms. Flagg has a wonderful gift for storytelling, and I just can't recommend her books enough. If you love small town reading, and funny characters, definitely give this a shot. I can't see how anyone couldn't not fall in love with this bunch. Who knew that so many lives would be affected the day Mrs. Elner Shimfissle fell out of her fig tree and was stung to 'death' by over seventeen wasps? And I just loved meeting up with some of my favorite characters from her previous books 'Welcome to the World, Baby Girl!', and 'Standing in the Rainbow'.  Norma's aunt, was up in the fig tree to get some figs to make a preserve when she disturbed a wasp's nest and got stung and fell off the ladder. This is not the first time she has done that. She has fallen off the ladder other times and drove her niece, Norma, crazy and worried with fear. This time, Elner was knocked out cold. This is just the beginning of an adventure for the townsfolks of Elmwood Springs, Missouri. Elner is taken to Kansas City to the hospital there. Norma and her husband, Macky, followed behind. Ruby and Tots, the local hairdresser takes care of things at Elner's house and the stories just keep on flowing. Bittersweet and heart-warming, it made me, the reader, wish that people would think of me the same way they did Elner. And not only that, it's a reminder to take life a little bit on the easy and slow side because you never know when the last day will come. It may be too late to do all the things you wish you could do or have said.  Flagg is a brilliant story teller with a unique and wonderful way with words. It has been a long time since I have laughed out loud while reading a book and a few moments later found myself with tears in my eyes over an unexpected sad turn of events. This is another "must read" from the gifted Flagg.     
Anonymous 9 months ago
Rarely do I give a bad review but this book was just too horrible. It was basically 300 pages about nothing. Though the writing was very good technically, there was no actual plot. I think the author may have realized that in the last few pages and tried to build a plot and end it very quickly before the book was done. Her efforts in that failed. I am surprised and disappointed inFannie Flagg. Don't write a book unless you have an idea for a real plot! Stephanie Clanahan
IrishGarden More than 1 year ago
I read this to my Dad in the hospital and the cute and quirky little heaven sightings really cheered him up and actually kind of rested his worried soul. What more could you ask for???? It also is a great gift for NURSES. People who almost die and live to talk about what they saw would love this book. There is a peaceful feeling I can't explain after reading this cute story.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
katz27 9 months ago
i was so disappointed in this book, I hesitate to buy her new one. Oh my, but it was so bad and I WAS such a HUGE fan but I"m ready to move on and I fear it's time for Ms. Flagg to as well.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
alwaysareader More than 1 year ago
Anyone who doesn't love Fannie Flagg's books has never read one. Being from Green Bay, WI this book had particular appeal. Added to that is that I learned so much about females in aviation both as stunt performers as well as military pilots. It is laugh-out-loud as well as emotionally moving.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book helped me through a loss in such a big way!
CarenS More than 1 year ago
I'm surprised by the poor reviews. I thought this was one of her best! Really enjoyed the characters and the after-life concept.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
LoveToReadItAll More than 1 year ago
I loved this book!  There are so many dark novels with dark characters engaged in depraved activities lately, that a novel such at this one is like a breath of fresh air.  I've passed this one around to many friends who have also enjoyed it.  You will too, if you enjoy the occasional heartwarming story about good -hearted people. 
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This was my first Fanny Flagg book, I loved it most fun just to kick back and read. IS IT IMPOSSIBLE WHO KNOWS
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pdc1950 More than 1 year ago
I just started reading books by Fannie Flagg this year and am glad to say I found her. Her writing is very expressive; the characters just jump out at you. Great page turner; you don't want to put it down. Recommend reading this book for great enjoyment and laughter to boot.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago