The whole town’s talking

The narrative zoomed from one character to another quickly enough to make my head spin.

I really wish that books were not so prone to deception. Some books I’ll think I can finish before bed and suddenly it’s 3 a.m. I’ve just finished reading, Fannie Flagg’s The Whole Town’s Talking: another sort of deception. I had read previews which led me to believe that I would be enjoying a story of pioneer farmers establishing a community. It sounded like I’d be able to see my own grandparents (except Swedish characters instead of my Dutch ancestors). It started off that way and was delightful and endearing right up to the scene where the pig gets into the kitchen and eats wedding cake. After that, it just didn’t read the same.

The narrative zoomed from one character to another quickly enough to make my head spin. By that time, I had invested enough time in the book to feel like I had to finish it. At the half-way point I flipped to the back to see how many more pages it was and whether it had an appendix listing characters’ names and how they were related to each other, or at least a family tree. No such luck.

There were some bright moments, such as the gathering of neighbors every evening to watch the sunset, or the intrigue of who murdered the town’s peeping tom. Even that was quickly forgotten as I read the final pages of the book. At that point I was so irritated by it that I longed to hurl it across my living room, but that would have startled my dog into a barking frenzy and I didn’t want to damage a library book (especially as I had borrowed it from another library).

If you’ve ever seen or read the play Our Town, then you already have a pretty good idea of how the story goes. Except, if memory serves, Thornton Wilder’s Our Town didn’t go on nearly so long. Yes, the structure of this novel was the creation, rise, and then fall of a particular community, yet Flagg could have followed fewer characters to the same effect. After the first forty pages, the charm of the writing and characters was gone.

What irritates me most is that I can’t even count it towards the Library’s Canada 150 celebration of reading! As one part of the celebration, the library will be handing out maple leaves for readers to fill in with a book that they have finished reading in 2017. We’ll string the first 150 leaves from the ceiling, and dapple a display wall with the rest. We’re hoping to reach 2017 completed leaves by the end of 2017.

The library is hoping to celebrate Canada every month with displays and activities. Getting us off to a good start would be Sylvan Lake winning the 2017 #Readfor15.0hCanada! community challenge. It works the same as last year: on Family Literacy Day, January 27, report 15 minutes of reading to the library by Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, by phone, or in person, using the hashtag #Readfor15sylvan. Last year we came in 16th in the province, but I am convinced that we can do much better than that. We lost to Donalda last year. Donalda! Do you know how small Donalda is?

Reading for 15 minutes is far easier than you think. Going over a menu? That’s reading. So is following posts on Facebook and Twitter. Group reading? Each person can report individually for the amount of time read by the group (classrooms, families, innocent bystanders in Tim Horton’s that you just randomly start reading to, etc.) Come on. Let’s make this something that will have the whole town talking!