Book Review for “Standing in the Rainbow” by Fannie Flagg.
Summary: “Along with Neighbor Dorothy, the lady with the smile in her voice, whose daily radio broadcasts keep us delightfully informed on all the local news, we also meet Bobby, her ten-year-old son, destined to live a thousand lives, most of them in his imagination; Norma and Macky Warren and their ninety-eight-year-old Aunt Elner; the oddly sexy and charismatic Hamm Sparks, who starts off in life as a tractor salesman and ends up selling himself to the whole state and almost the entire country; and the two women who love him as differently as night and day. Then there is Tot Whooten, the beautician whose luck is as bad as her hairdressing skills; Beatrice Woods, the Little Blind Songbird; Cecil Figgs, the Funeral King; and the fabulous Minnie Oatman, lead vocalist of the Oatman Family Gospel Singers.”
Age: Adult; Genres: Literary, Women, Fiction; Settings: Historical & Contemporary (multiple timelines from 1940s through 1990s); USA – Missouri – Elmwood Springs (fictional); Other Categories: Novel, Sequel, Multiple Timelines, Family Saga, Humor.
Yes, I know, I read the last book in this series (“The Whole Town’s Talking”) before this one, but I had this one on my shelf for a long time, and then the Big Summer Book Challenge came up and of all the books on my shelf that I’ve been wanting to read, this one was the only one with more than 400 pages. So, I dove in right away. Obviously, since I’m a slow reader, this took me a while to complete, but I didn’t really care. You see, there is something about Flagg’s writing that just pulls you in, with an innocence and charm that is always just underneath the very straight-forward prose. There’s also a wry edge to Flagg’s narrative that makes you feel like Flagg had a smile on her face and a twinkle in her eye as she was writing these stories down. With that, and some subtly, and slightly poetic descriptions, you just can’t go wrong with Flagg. Furthermore, even if you’ve never been to Missouri, by the time you’ve finished reading, you’ll feel like you’ve been living in this small town for years, and know every nook and cranny!
Another thing that’s refreshing about this book is that it is written chronologically, without all those jumps all over the place in the timeline, from hoping from one era to another. Sure, a dual or triple timeline novel can be very effective, but honestly, I feel like it’s been so overdone lately that it’s practically become a cliché. Sometimes you just want someone to tell you a story from beginning to end, without wavering, so you don’t have to double check what year you’re reading about. Certainly, Flagg is a prime example of how you can build up tension, and put your readers on a roller coaster ride, without flopping around the decades. In truth, I am beginning to feel that a linearly told story has a much better chance at being a cohesively told one, which helps the readers connect with the characters on a deeper level, and allows the plot to unfold naturally rather than throwing in artificial semi-spoilers by jumping ahead before getting back to the main action. This is why I believe the sequential timeline will never go out of style, and thank heavens for that!
Now, I should mention that although this book is technically the second book in Flagg’s Elmwood Springs books (starting with “Welcome to the World, Baby Girl,” a book I read long before I had a blog and started reviewing books), it doesn’t seem to feel like a sequel. By that I mean that while I remember a few things about that first book, I didn’t remember all of the characters. In fact, I had to look it up, and the main character of that first book isn’t really featured here. Since this book starts in 1946, and the first one takes place in the 1970s, they’re not sequential at all! While there’s one more book in the series, it also focuses on someone else altogether. It is only the last book in the series that sums up all of the history Elmwood Springs, and as I said in my review, it stands alone just fine.
Obviously, I loved this book as much as I did the other two, and I will probably buy myself a copy of the third one some day (opportunity and funds willing). Flagg is just a delight to read, with her wit and charm and even poignant pieces that will make you both laugh and cry – sometimes at the same time! Could I give this book less than 5/5 stars? No, I could not. I can’t imagine anyone not enjoying this book, or any of the others of hers I’ve read. Fannie, you’re one the best!
Ballantine Books first released “Standing in the Rainbow” by Fannie Flagg in May, 2002. This book is available (via the following affiliate links) from Amazon, Foyles, The Book Depository UK and Book Depository US (both with free worldwide delivery), Waterstones, WHSmith, Wordery UK and Wordery US, Kobo US (eBooks and audiobooks), the website eBooks.com, Booksamillion.com, iTunes (iBooks and audiobooks), new or used from Alibris, used from Better World Books (promoting libraries and world literary), as well as from as well as from Bookshop.org and UK.Bookshop (to support independent bookshops, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic) or an IndieBound store near you.