Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Standing in the Rainbow by Fannie Flagg

If you have never read anything by Fannie Flagg, you are missing out. She is most famous for the Hollywood version of her book Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe. Standing in the Rainbow has some similarities to Fried Green Tomatoes. Flagg specializes in eccentric small town characters with a touch of both sadness and humor. I wouldn't say this was my favorite book by Flagg, but it was definitely enjoyable and worth the read.
Standing in the Rainbow follows a number of characters who all share a background in post-World War II Elmwood Springs, Missouri. The main figure who traverses the whole novel is Dorothy Smith, a small town radio host. Her son and daughter and their family friends roam through the house as Dorothy is broadcasting her show. Flagg aptly describes life in small town USA in the 1950s - town bullies, the local drunk, the local movie house. She interweaves unique characters like Minnie Oatman the heavyset gospel singer, Cecil Figgs the successful gay mortician, and Hamm Sparks the political ingenue who somehow gets elected governor.
The story spans the entire second half of the twentieth century from the late-1940s until the mid-1990s. The section of the 1940s and 50s were by far the best. As Flagg moved away from Neighbor Dorothy's family and away from Elmwood Springs, the plot became plodding. She spent too much time on Betty Raye and Hamm Sparks. I would have rather continued with the characters she introduced at the beginning.
But, by the end I was amused and sad to put the book down. It was like catching up with a lifetime of friends and feeling depressed when you know they have to go home and you won't see them again for a year.

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