I'd been reading a number of dark books recently, and decided it was time to read something lighter. This was the "lightest" on the list from which we chose our next book club discussion title.
Aunt Elner, of indeterminate age because the family Bible had gone missing, but certainly in her late 80s, has decided to make fig jam, and climbs a ladder into her fig tree. She is attacked by a swarm of wasps, falls from the ladder and dies.
Then we watch as small-town politics, families, and communication channels all gear up to handle this unexpected occurrance, from niece to trucker, from hospital attorney to neighbor, from radio station to newspaper. Through their eyes, we see Aunt Elner's life and the positive effects she's had on pretty much everyone in her town. Neighbors clean her house, take care of her cat, wash her laundry - and discover a loaded pistol in the bottom of her laundry hamper!
As it turns out the doctors were wrong - Aunt Elner is, in fact, alive, despite being sent to the hospital's morgue, and returns home after a stay in the Intensive Care Unit. This gives everyone a "second chance" to examine their lives and their relationships with each other. What was billed as "pathos," "side-splitting," and "serio-comic" turns out to be a parable, forcing not only the characters, but also readers to ask, "Why are we here? Are we living our lives in the best way we can for others and for ourselves? What is heaven?"
As for the mystery of the gun, ...