Book Review: Standing In the Rainbow
Audiobook Read By: Kate Reading
Publisher: Ballantine Books, 2002
My Rating: B+
Standing In the Rainbow was, for me, a visit back home in both time and place. This story, set in the Midwest, was like taking a verbal photograph of a portion of my life. Standing In the Rainbow features Elmwood Springs, Missouri but it could just as easily have been Kenosha, Wisconsin. Elmwood Springs was so similar to my hometown. It’s the kind of place where everybody sort of knows everybody else, a place where the neighbors keep an eye out for each other, a place where at the age of 10 you can go by yourself to shop downtown or to the swimming pool or, like Bobby in Elmwood Springs, go climb the water-tower.
The book also felt familiar to me because the time-period is the same as my growing-up time-period. The story starts right after the end of World War II, around the mid-forties. It stays in the forties and early fifties for the first half of the book and then moves on up to the nineties. After ten years of the Great Depression and five years of war, people in the mid-forties were enjoying the simple pleasures of being alive and seeing the future filled with hope and promise.
Standing In the Rainbow revolves around the events and people in the lives of the Smith family. There is Doc, who owns the pharmacy, his wife Dorothy, who broadcasts a radio show, and their two children Anna Marie (15) and Bobby (10). Also living with them is a border, Jimmy, who works at the Diner, and Mother Smith, Doc’s mother. Each of them has numerous friends, family and acquaintances who all play a part in the story.
The part of Standing In the Rainbow I enjoyed the most was the character of Dorothy and all of the people who moved in and around her. Dorothy was known as Neighbor Dorothy to everyone on her daily radio show which was broadcast directly from her living room. As a young bride I listened to my own version of this show. It was called Kitchen Klatter and it came from Leeanna Driftmeir’s home in Iowa.
That radio show was very popular from the twenties through to the eighties. Basically. both shows were a one-sided chat with a friend. It appealed to isolated rural women and other homemakers. The shows included recipes, tips on homemaking, parenting, and gardening, sometimes a little music and poetry, and always chatty stories about friends and family. In Standing In the Rainbow Dorothy and her radio show were a magnet for all sorts of interesting characters and their stories.
My only criticism of the book was that it went on too long. It was 12 discs/15 hours for the audio or 560 pages for the paper version. About two-thirds of the way through the story it bogged down with the story of one of the characters who was a politician. The author or editors would have been wise to edit it down or make it two books.
I listened to this audiobook which, if I do say so myself, was a great idea. Because so much of the book revolves around Neighbor Dorothy’s radio show, listening to the story gave me the flavor of the chatty radio show.
Overall, I liked this story, probably because it felt so personal. I also liked the quirky characters the author introduced me to. You can’t beat Fannie Flagg for writing a good homey story. I recommend it to all of you, even if you were born long after the time period of the story. It’s a great way to understand the culture of America during the last half of the twentieth century.
I borrowed this audiobook from the public library. Check your library or your local bookseller. It’s also available in the Kindle and paperback versions are available at Amazon. (I am an Amazon Associate.)