Sunny's bookshelf
Sunny's bookshelf photo by Judy Solomon

Online book reviews since 2011, the very best in reviewing – connecting good readers with equally good writers

The Whole Town’s Talking

Sign up to receive our latest reviews by email

The Whole Town’s Talking

When I taught creative writing, I always urged my students to think about audience. “Who will want to read what you have written,” I would ask. “And why?” As a reviewer, I often consider audience, too. Who will most enjoy this particular book, and why? The answer for Fannie Flagg’s latest novel, The Whole Town’s Talking, is an easy one.

Flagg wrote The Whole Town’s Talking for someone who grew up in middle-class America of the mid-twentieth century. That reader is probably female, and she most certainly is nostalgic. She fondly remembers “the good old days,” when Dad went to work and Mom stayed home and neighbors cared for one another. Quite possibly she lives in Iowa or Illinois or Nebraska or Kansas. She’s a grandmother now, perhaps a widow, and talks with her children and grandchildren almost every day. Maybe she’s had a hip replacement, or gall bladder surgery, or heart palpitations. In the dark of the night, she worries a bit about her own mortality.

The Whole Town’s Talking offers her some warm and fuzzy answers. Written with candor and affection, this heartfelt narrative traces a small town’s evolution from its founding until the present, from its beginning as a small collection of rural nineteenth-century Missouri farms to its heyday as a thriving community center to its gradual decline and demise. Founded by Swedish immigrants, Elmwood Springs has seen young people marry, families grow, careers succeed and fail. This mid-western town also has witnessed the inevitable deaths that bring successive generations into prominence.

Those deaths play a central role in The Whole Town’s Talking because the deceased citizens of Elmwood Springs all end up in the local cemetery. There, they continue gossiping and pondering and watching over the loved ones they left behind. This is the charm of Flagg’s very magical novel, hearing the deceased chat about whatever happens next. Because their families visit often, they keep up with progress in a way. But because they can converse only among themselves, not with anyone still alive, they cannot orchestrate the present or the future. They can only affectionately observe.

The Whole Town’s Talking moves back and forth between the living and dead, between the mundane instances of everyday life and the more traumatic moments of change. It also gives the reader snapshots of history. Highlights, like the advent of automobiles or the mayhem of World War II or the wonders of cinema and television or the onslaught of big box stores, affect Elmwood Spring’s population, alter their hopes and their dreams. Flagg even imagines alternative realities. What if so-and-so had married someone else? Or how come he did that? Or why didn’t she know?

The author of Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Café has written another nostalgic gem about a collection of individuals who find strength in their community, who know the power of love. Most certainly this novel will not appeal to every reader. I myself enjoyed the many references to a middle-class past, but anyone growing up in the internet age will surely find the references dated. Perhaps Flagg aims her fiction at an overly sentimental, rose-colored glasses reader, perhaps not. I cannot, however, chastise her for her romantic vision of an idyllic past. Or for her acute musings about what past generations might think about the present. That’s exactly what The Whole Town’s Talking so successfully depicts. – Ann Ronald

Also available by Fanny Flagg: Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe; The All-Girl Filling Station’s Last Reunion; Standing in the Rainbow; I Still Dream About You; Can’t Wait to Get to Heaven; A Redbird Christmas; Welcome to the World, Baby Girl; Daisy Fay and the Miracle Man; Whistle Stop Cafe Cookbook; Can’t Wait to Get to Heaven; The Book of Peach; Standing in the Rainbow Proof.

Add your thoughts and comments...

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Share this Review

Related Reviews

The God of  Endings

Jacqueline Hollands’s debut novel, The God of  Endings, reveals the loneliness of the life of an unwilling vampire. Jacqueline Holland’s debut novel, The God of Endings, follows

Read More »
Billy Blaster and the Robot Army from Outer Space

Billy Blaster

BILLY BLASTER AND THE ROBOT ARMY FROM OUTER SPACE – not necessarily a graphic novel only for the younger reader. No matter how old you

Read More »

About the Reviewer

Sign up for reviews by email

You’ll get email updates from Bookin’ with Sunny when we add a new review or blog post, and we never share your email with anyone else.

Shopping in-store Fun!

Support your local community’s economic growth by shopping for books at your independent bookstore in person, online at their website, or by phone.