Two Completely Different Reads

The moment you start reading The Whole Town’s Talking (2016) by Fannie Flagg be prepared.  You are going to meet several delightful residents of Elmwood Springs, Missouri.  The author has a different way of telling a story.  It is not told in numbered chapters.  The telling of this small town is broken into decades, from the 1890s to 2020.  Sit back and get ready to enjoy your time with these memorable folks.

First off you are going to get to know the founder of Elmwood Springs.  28-year-old Lordor Nordstrom left Sweden for America with a dream of buying land.  He found exactly what he was looking for in Southern Missouri.  Lordor placed ads in Swedish newspapers encouraging others to come.  It was not long before it had become a farming community.  Lordor donated what he felt was a perfect spot for a final resting place.  Still Meadows Cemetery was established in 1899.

Lordor was well-liked by those who came and taken up residence.  The married ladies of the town felt Lordor should get married and start a family.  Problem was Lordor was quite uncomfortable and awkward around the opposite sex.  It was suggested he should advertise for a mail-order bride.  He was reluctant to say the very least, but Lordor placed an ad in a Swedish -American newspaper in Chicago.

Enter Katrina Olsen who noticed Lordor’s ad when doing her job as a domestic servant.  Unsure whether to reply because Katrina had heard tales of bears, Indians, and mountain lions in that wild part of the country.  Deciding it would be better to be a farmer’s wife than a servant, Katrina sent off a short note describing herself as 24-years-old, a Lutheran with skills of cooking, sewing, and gardening.  She also enclosed a photograph.

The two were eventually married and with the turn of the century more change came to Elmwood Springs.  Lordor’s heart condition was growing worse and he decided to sell his Sweet Clover Dairy to Ander Swensen.  Lordor dies two weeks later and becomes the first to be laid to rest in Still Meadows.

From that point on the book follows several generations through decade by decade up into 2020.  Depending on your age, you will recognize and possibly have experienced the events, inventions, issues of the different decades.

During all those decades the town continued to grow and flourish for many years.  But, with time came changes.  Many of us have experienced how new concepts such as interstate highways, malls, etc. can make a difference in a town.  It happened in Elmwood Springs.

The Whole Town’s Talking is a companion of Flagg’s Can’t Wait to get to Heaven, Welcome to the World Baby Girl, or Standing in a Rainbow.  If you have enjoyed those titles, you probably will recognize some of the characters in this novel.

I enjoyed reading this light-hearted and often humorous book.  It would have been helpful if a genealogy of the numerous characters had been included with the book.  I have not even mentioned Beatrice, Elner (my favorite), Gene, Hanna and many, many others.    I wish I had kept a notepad to jot down characters as they had been introduced.

This next book is completely different.  For one thing, way less characters.  What you will find is plenty of suspense, betrayals, roadblocks, and a dog named Riley.  Somebody I Used to Know (2015) by David Bell has all of that and more.

Do you remember your first love?  Maybe you married him or her.  Maybe not.  Nick Hansen thought he saw his first love as he was picking up a few things at the grocery.  But that was impossible.  Marissa Minor had been dead for 20 years.

It does not help that Nick has never really gotten over the sudden way Marissa broke up with him when in college.  When he sees someone, who could be her twin, Nick is stopped in his tracks.  He is so taken he tries to start up a conversation with this stranger.

Nick asks the young woman if perchance she might be related to the Minor family from Ohio.  Her reaction was not at all what he expected.  The young woman dropped her groceries and took off running.

The next morning Nick is awakened by loud knocking on the door.  He was greeted by two uniformed policemen.  Detective Reece and Nick had met about six weeks ago.  But he was not a fan of Nick’s because of that meeting.  Reece was there about the incident in the grocery.  Turns out the girl was found dead in a motel with Nick’s name and address on a slip of paper found in her pocket.

With Nick is now being questioned about just who is this young woman who strongly resembles Marissa.  The 20 year-old-story about his time with Marissa in college comes to light.  Is the young woman related to Marissa? Is Nick connected somehow?

Nick wants answer to these questions as much as the police.  He decides to search for the connection between the two women.  To do this, Nick enlists the help of his friend Laurel Davidson who has connections to the police.

On the morning Laurel and Nick are about to leave for Hanfort, Marissa’s hometown, Nick receives news from his lawyer.  Mick Brosius has what should be good news.  Nick’s DNA clears him of Emily Russell’s death.  But that still does not explain why his address was in her pocket.

While in Hanfort Nick found some information about Marissa’s family, their sudden move out of town, and also was given the name Roger Kirby, a business associate of Marissa’s father.  The meeting between Roger and Nick did not go smoothly.  Kirby resented all the questions and left in a huff.

As Kirby was leaving, he ran into Laurel.  Turns out Laurel recognized him as someone who was with Marissa the night she died.  She also found out some other intriguing information from the local police she was anxious to share with Nick.

Nick is trying to piece together information into some kind of logical conclusion.  Just as he and Laurel think they are on to something, another name is thrown into the mix or another incident comes to light.

I think it is at this point, which is just a tad over half way to being solved, I will let you get to the reading of Somebody I Used to Know.  See if you can figure out the who, what, where, when, and how this page turner come together.  It is a fast read.  Perfect for the beach, a rainy afternoon, or taking on a trip.

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