7 reviews

Can't Wait to Get to Heaven: A Novel
by Fannie Flagg

Published: 2006-07-04
Hardcover : 384 pages
6 members reading this now
32 clubs reading this now
7 members have read this book
Recommended to book clubs by 6 of 7 members
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?
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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 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.

Editorial Review

No editorial review at this time.


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. ... view entire excerpt...

Discussion Questions

From the publisher:

Reader's Guide

1. When Aunt Elner falls out of her fig tree, she embarks upon a journey she never could have anticipated. Describe Elner’s surprising view of heaven. How does it compare with your own idea of the afterlife, or the conceptions held by various world cultures and religions? On a personal note, what do you hope is waiting for you on the other side of the pearly gates?
2. Elmwood Springs is a tightly knit community in which everyone seems to know his neighbor’s business. For the Warrens, what are some of the benefits of living in a small town? On the other hand, what are some of the drawbacks? How does your own hometown compare with Elmood Springs? Would you ever wish to move into Elner’s quirky neighborhood? Why or why not?
3. Describe Norma and Macky’s relationship, and how their marriage grows throughout the course of the novel. What bumps in the road have the Warrens endured? What keeps their marriage strong?
4. On her ascent to heaven, Elner climbs a crystal staircase; meanwhile, Ernest Koontz drives up to destiny in a brand new Cadillac convertible with heated seats. Consider your own wildest fantasy about heaven; how would you choose to arrive in style?
5. Norma and Tot’s long-standing friendship is challenged by Tot’s persistent negativity. Do you, like Aunt Elner, naturally embrace a positive outlook on life? Or, like Norma, do you strive, day by day, to “replace a negative thought with a positive”? Or, like Tot, do you prefer to “tell it like it is”? How does Norma choose to handle her differences with Tot? And how do the two friends manage to reconcile in the end?
6. For Elner, meeting her hero, Thomas Edison, is a dream come true. Which figures from history would top your own list of people you’d like to meet in heaven?
7. What message does Raymond impart to Elner about the meaning of life, and how does this view compare with your own beliefs?
8. If heaven allowed you to re-experience an episode, a place, or a time from your past, like Aunt Elner’s trip fifty years back in time to Neighbor Dorothy’s on First Avenue North, what scene or event would you choose to revisit, and why?
9. Can’t Wait to Get to Heaven is as much a mystery as a comedy. Do you think Elner truly died and went to heaven? What do members of Elner’s family believe? Next, just what is the truth behind the strange golf shoe? And what about Ida’s hidden family Bible? Finally, discuss the mystery of Elner’s loaded gun; were you surprised at the truth behind the mystery?
10. Reading Can’t Wait to Get to Heaven is like taking an antidote to the almost constant stream of bad news that surrounds us in our modern world. Tot voices something we all feel: “I always try to put on a happy face, but it’s getting harder and harder to keep up a good attitude…..Nostradamus, CNN, all the papers, according to them, we are on the brink of total annihilation at any second.” How did this novel make you feel about the state of the world today?
11. Elner touched the lives of many people in her community, from the ambitious journalist Cathy Calvert, to the troubled, misunderstood Luther Griggs, to the reformed lawyer Winston Sprague. How does Elner relate to so many different personalities? Describe Elner’s character and attitude toward people, problems, and life. Do you know anyone who shares Elner’s sensibility and talents for reaching out to others?

Notes From the Author to the Bookclub

No notes at this time.

Book Club Recommendations

Member Reviews

Overall rating:
by Kim B. (see profile) 04/27/19

by Regina D. (see profile) 08/31/16

  "Light reading"by Oleta W. (see profile) 08/05/16

Small town story full of characters that pulled you in to the book. I enjoyed the book but I had to get a third of the way through it before I really started to enjoy it.
It was an easy boo
... (read more)

  "A very sweet book"by Laurel E. (see profile) 03/16/14

Members of our book club loved this book. For me it's a good in-between book to read. Doesn't require much out of you, makes you smile, and gives you a breather before you start on the next really intense... (read more)

  "Can't Wait to Get to Heaven"by Cynthia H. (see profile) 02/26/14

This book makes me laugh out loud every time I read it. It is so sweet. The main character really is a character, and an optimistic, happy, cheerful, forgiving one at that. All of the active characters... (read more)

  "Can't Wait to Get to Heaven."by Barbara L. (see profile) 02/24/14

This is a lovely counterpoint to many of the usual book club books used for discussions. It is humorous, warm, G-rated and entertaining. You might think that means nothing to talk about. You would be... (read more)

  "Seemed a bit simplistic"by Peg C. (see profile) 01/24/14

The writing just seemed like it was talking down to the readers a bit.

  "Not so funny"by Kathy S. (see profile) 06/28/11

We were looking for a more comedic break, and while this is a fun, quirky, inspiring little book with a view into small town life, we didn't find it to be the knee slapper we were expecting.

  "very slow moving"by Kim W. (see profile) 04/23/08

The beginning of the book moved very slowly. The plot at the end of the book somewhat tied it all together.

  "Not for everyone"by Ruth A. (see profile) 04/18/08

Our club members thought this book was a dull read. Most felt the first half was slow with too much character description. Only a few, including myself, enjoyed the book. I liked the colorful characters... (read more)

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