Written with simplicity, "The Whole Town's Talking" by Fannie Flagg chronicles the birth, life, and death of a small town in Missouri. Flagg introduces an extensive cast of characters through a series of vignettes that highlight the development of the town while providing snippets of the inhabitants' lives.
Based on the title and description, I expected something of a mystery with an element of the supernatural, but this book is a straightforward social commentary on the growth and development of mid-western life in the US. Nothing strange or unusual happens, as promised in the book blurb, however, Flagg takes the lives of ordinary people and writes them into something extraordinary.
The opening remarks about the crow and the closing epilogue feel forced--dropped into the text like an afterthought to allow the book to come full-circle. Halfway through the novel, Flagg births a character who becomes a central figure in Elmwood Springs. Although her life touches most of the other characters, much of it is exposed via gossip and speculation. Her death, while not a mystery to the reader, causes a stir when her will upsets the entire ebb and flow of the town's life. In effect, her demise results on the death of the town. The epilogue provides an explanation for all that occurred, but it feels more like a gimmick, and I believe no direct explanation was necessary. With the revelation of what happens to the disappearing residents of Still Meadows, the reader could have figured out the rest.
Additionally, after forging a book steeped in history and tradition, with believable characters and events, and carefully crafted to retain interest, the revelation of the crow detracts from the excellent realism and story-telling that comes before. Crows are smart, but there are some things they can't physically do, regardless of knowledge and intelligence.
Overall, this is a pleasant book that's easy to read with engaging characters. I enjoyed the relaxed cadence of the story, reading about the townspeople of Elmwood Springs, and following their histories.
I received a pre-release copy of "The Whole Town's Talking" via Netgalley for an honest review.