In small-town Elmwood Springs, Missouri, on the heels of World War II, life holds promise for little boys like Bobby Smith. America is a nation of "Coca-Cola, chocolate- covered peanuts, jukeboxes, Oxydol, Ivory Snow, oleomargarine, and the Atomic Bomb" and is "bigger, better, richer, and stronger" than anyplace else. Bobby's dad is the town's pharmacist, and his mom hosts the state's most popular morning radio program from the family's living room. This ambitious effort from the author of Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe spans fifty years fraught with scandal and romance. The Smiths and their friends and neighbors display a kind of big-hearted optimism that has the potential to reduce their story to sentimental mush. Flagg's knack for humor and observation lend the characters a depth that rescues what might otherwise have been a typical, dramatic saga. For all its myriad twists and turns, this tale never takes an easy way out.
From the talented storyteller whose Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe became a beloved bestseller and a successful film comes a sprawling, feel-good novel with an old-fashioned beginning, middle and end. The predominant setting is tiny Elmwood Springs, Mo., and the protagonist is 10-year-old Bobby Smith, an earnest Cub Scout also capable of sneaking earthworms into his big sister's bed. His father is the town pharmacist and his mother is local radio personality Neighbor Dorothy (whom readers will recognize from Flagg's Welcome to the World, Baby Girl!). In 1946, Harry Truman presides over a victorious nation anticipating a happy and prosperous future. During the next several decades, the plot expands to include numerous beguiling characters who interact with the Smith family among them, the Oatman Family Southern Gospel Singers, led by matriarch Minnie, who survive misadventures galore to find fame after an appearance on the Arthur Godfrey show in 1949, the same year Bobby's self-esteem soars when he wins the annual town bubble gum contest. Also on hand are tractor salesman Ham Sparks, who becomes amazingly successful in politics, despite his marriage to overwhelmingly shy Betty Raye Oatman, and well-liked mortician Cecil Figgs, a sponsor of Neighbor Dorothy, who, as a bachelor in the mid-century South, also enjoys a secret life. The effects of changing social mores are handled deftly; historical events as they impact little Elmwood Springs are duly noted, and everything is infused with the good humor and joie de vivre that are Flagg's stock-in-trade. Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Flagg brings her readers back to 1940s Elmwood, MO, when a family of white gospel singers bursts into town. Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Welcome to Elmwood, Missouri, 1946-2000 . . . And meet Neighbor Dorothy (she of Welcome to the World, Baby Girl!, 1998), the motherly host of a radio chat-show broadcast throughout the rural Midwest and South from her Elmwood backyard, just one of a host of deftly drawn local eccentrics. Although she doesn't think that there's anything particularly odd about her family and friends-it's more that odd things have a way of happening to them. For instance, the Oatman Family Southern Gospel Singers, who travel with Chester, a Scripture-quoting ventriloquist's dummy, just decided to drop their tongue-tied daughter Betty Raye at Dorothy's house. Betty Raye doesn't say much, but she's a quick study. And there's Dorothy's ten-year-old son Bobby, who daydreams about being the unrecognized son of Dale Evans and Roy Rogers, when not sneaking off to take a blind singer on his mother's radio show to thrill rides at the carnival. And poor Tot, whose senile mother steals the Christmas presents and hides them in the backyard. Tot wanders through the story like the lost member of an ancient Greek chorus (if ancient Greek chorus members wore chenille bathrobes). She has more than her mother to contend with: husband Dwayne Sr. is a drunk, and feckless son Dwayne Jr. is no use to anyone. Terminally gracious Ida, who believes that only the heathen eat without a tablecloth, clucks and fusses. Then there's Hamm Sparks, a young tractor-salesman with the natural affability of a born politician. He surprises everyone by marrying Betty Raye, and one fine day she surprises them even more by becoming governor of Missouri. As the decades unfold, each character flowers in unexpected ways-and wonder of wonders, Hammexperiences a truly southern apotheosis and gets to heaven in a fishing boat. Hilarious, charming, authentic-a winner all the way.
“ANOTHER SURE-FIRE WINNER . . . A PLEASURE TO READ FROM BEGINNING TO END.”
–The Washington Post
“[A] BIG, JUICY MIDDLE-AMERICAN APPLE PIE OF A BOOK, SOMETIMES TART BUT MOSTLY SWEET.”
–Los Angeles Times
“FLAGG WRITES PAGE-TURNERS AND THIS IS ONE, IN SPADES. . . . The characters come at you thick and fast . . . Dorothy, prodigious pie-baker, supremely likeable and conscientious neighbor, [and] hostess of a wildly popular daily radio program; Minnie Oatman, the generously fleshed and bighearted lead singer (baritone) of the Oatman Family Gospel Singers; Beatrice, the Little Blind Songbird, who appears regularly on the Neighbor Dorothy program until she is swept away by the Oatmans; prickly Aunt Elner, who owns a series of orange cats, all named Sonny. Flagg’s inventiveness never loses its energy.”
“RIVETING FROM BEGINNING TO END . . . A sweeping story that runs from 1946 to 2000. Elmwood Springs [Missouri] grows from a post—World War II town surrounded by farmland to a twenty-first-century enclave near the highway but never loses its sense of utopia.”
–Rocky Mountain News
“GOOD NEWS FOR FANS OF FRIED GREEN TOMATOES . . . The action does not let up for a minute.”
–The New York Times Book Review
“FULL OF HOPE AND OPTIMISM . . . A book that will make you cry a little but laugh a lot.”
–The Washington Post
“As delicious a serving of Southern comfort as her Fried Green Tomatoes . . . Fannie invites her readers to make friends with a host of colorful Midwestern characters, who sneak into your heart and force you to live through all their joys and tribulations following World War II right up to yesterday. In this stormy world of ‘now,’ Fannie Flagg offers escape,
at least momentarily, into the rainbow of her imagination.”
The New York Post
“A fast-paced, humorous, and lighthearted read, peopled with [Flagg’s] signature quirky and captivating characters. Standing in the Rainbow spans more than half a century, but Flagg is masterful at showing how small-town life in America evolves through the decades. . . . The reader [is] propelled by the infectious momentum of Flagg’s storytelling.”
“There’s a real celebration of life here, an affirmation that success and happiness are the results of simple kindness, gratitude, and courage.”
–The Christian Science Monitor
“ENDEARING . . . The charm lies in Flagg’s simple yet expressive tone.”
“What is so appealing about Elmwood Springs? It’s Fannie Flagg’s unswerving devotion to folksy, sly humor and her uncanny ability to make a small town a big character in her sweetly engaging fourth novel. . . . Flagg ushers you into the residents’ hearts and minds with a flourish. She sits you right down in Neighbor Dorothy’s home during her radio broadcast, hands you a plate of homemade cookies, and assures you that putting up your feet and staying a bit is the right thing to do.”
“Like Rebecca Wells’s Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood, Flagg’s book tells the story not just of the town’s residents, but also of the changes in a community and a nation. . . . As Tot Whooten says at the outset, ‘I could go on and on, but I won’t. I hate when somebody tells me how something ends.’ Let’s just say that there’s a pot of gold at the end of Standing in the Rainbow.”
“A warm, witty, refreshing journey through fifty years with the residents of Elmwood Springs, Missouri . . . As time rolls along until the year 2000, we watch an assortment of lovable characters adapt to a changing America. And we thank Fannie Flagg for a look at those years before ‘the world had flipped over like a giant pancake.’ ”
–The Dallas Morning News
“A SPRAWLING, FEEL-GOOD NOVEL . . . The effects of changing social mores are handled deftly; historical events as they impact little Elmwood Springs are duly noted, and everything is infused with good humor and joie de vivre that are Flagg’s stock-in-trade.”
–Publishers Weekly (starred review)
“[Flagg] is an engaging storyteller with a gift for creating compelling female characters and comic set pieces. . . . Elmwood Springs is populated with an endless supply of eccentric characters and comic visitors who push the story along.”
–The Baltimore Sun
“Flagg is a storyteller with a big heart, an engaging sense of humor and plenty of ambition. From those hopeful post-World War II days, she tracks the comedies and setbacks of the folks of Elmwood Springs right up to the turn of the century.”
“As the decades unfold, each character flowers in unexpected ways. . . . Hilarious, charming, authentic–a winner all the way.”
–Kirkus Reviews (starred review)