Elner Shimfissle is living in Elmwood Springs, Missouri and she has raised her family and would really like to live her life the way she would like to in her retirement but there are people in her life who can't help but worry about her, particularly her high-strung niece, Norma. In fact, as Elner is picking figs from her fig tree and in the process falls off the ladder her last thoughts are "I'm in big trouble now...I may just have lost ladder privileges for life." And this is the beginning of the end for Elner. Or is it?
While this book was filled with interesting characters and a few ideas that kept my curiousity going, I don't think it is a book that I'll ever re-read. I didn't love all of the characters which is perhaps what the author was aiming for. I couldn't easily relate to their predicaments either although they were humorous at times. I did feel that things unfolded with a nice pace and that there was closure made with all the loose ends for the most part. But there were a couple of chapters in particular that really bothered me. I didn't feel the theme or the character it introduced added to the storyline at all and was unnecesssary. I wished that it hadn't been part of the story or I might have felt differently about the book in the end.
This book was an entertaining, light read which did give me a unique retrospective of Elner's life. I did enjoy the heartwarming perspective of how the simplest things that Elner did for others were the ones that meant the most in their lives. It gave me a gentle reminder of the importance of reaching out to help others.
A look from the book:
If Elner had entertained any doubts for a second that the woman before her was her sister, she didn't anymore. It was Ida all right.
"Now Ida, " She said, "try not to get yourself in a snit. Norma had no choice. Tot is a good friend. How can you tell somebody something like that and not hurt her feelings? She showed up at the funeral home with her supplies and everything. She thought she was doing you a favor. Norma didn't have the heart to tell her she couldn't do you."
Ida was not sympathetic. "I should think a dying wish trumps hurt feelings, any time of the day."
Elner looked up and saw two zebras, with red stripes that looked like candy canes and with silver tinsel manes and tails, an a herd of tiny little bright yellow hippopotamuses no bigger than twelve inches high, pass right in front of them.
375 pages, Ballantine Books - June 2007, My rating: 2.5 stars