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“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.

The time is 1946 until the present. The town is Elmwood Springs, Missouri, right in the middle of the country, in the midst of the mostly joyous transition from war to peace, aiming toward a dizzyingly bright future.”

This is the second book in the Elmwood Springs series and it is a difficult book. I was counting down the pages until it was done from about a hundred pages in until I finished all of the book, sadly this book was also a really long one. The plot of the book (was there a plot) was what happened in the town for a couple of decades. There was no major plot lines to speak of, unless you count a character running for mayor and going missing, but yet again this was dramatics free and didn’t feel like there was anything happening.

Some of my favorite characters that Fannie Flagg has ever written made bigger appearances in the book. Aunt Elner, Macky, and Norma were central characters in this book. You learn how Norma and Macky happened. You learned all about Aunt Elner and Neighbor Dorothy (way too much about her family who was by far less interesting). There was even a traveling gospel group that came into the picture, though they were a breath of fresh air, their plots fell victim to the Fannie Flagg magic of being too peaceful. I was so annoyed throughout the book, but it was just so peaceful that I couldn’t figure it out for over three hundred pages.

Most of the book was spent talking about the relationships of Norma/Macky, Bobby Raye/Hamm, Bobby/his wife, and Anna Lee/her husband. There was little else to the plot though there was a cute plot where a woman who lived in the middle of nowhere adopted an orange cat from a radio show. There were very few cute plots throughout the book. It really read like a dramatized (not dramatic at all) historical fiction. Though there is a good girl power plot where all the women in the state band together to get something done and the peaceful Neighbor Dorothy starts to go on feminist rants. This was greatly appreciated. I did start to tear up when Neighbor Dorothy died.

There were some good one liners in the book, like after Norma accidentally gets an Italian Boy haircut. Macky tells her that she is the sexiest Italian boy he has ever slept with. I laughed out loud on the train about that, but that was one of maybe two lines or plots that were funny or made the book enjoyable. My main complaint about this book is that it is so peaceful and long. If it was long or peaceful it would have been fine, but it was both so it was a killer to read.

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3 out of 5 stars. I guess I would recommend this book, but I’m not sure who to. It isn’t a bad book, but it isn’t one that I would probably bring up to anyone.

You can buy this book here.

~Isaiah

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