Thursday, September 30, 2010

Review - Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe

Summary (found on the back of the book): Folksy and fresh, endearing and affecting, Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe is the now-classic novel of two women in the 1980s: of gray-headed Mrs Threadgoode telling her life story to Evelyn, who is in the sad slump of middle age. The tale she tells is also of two women--of the irrepressibly daredevilish tomboy Idgie and her friend Ruth--who back in the thirties ran a little place in Whistle Stop, Alabama, a Southern kind of Cafe Wobegon offering good barbecue and good coffee and all kinds of love and laughter, even an occasional murder. And as the past unfolds, the present--for Evelyn and us--will never be quite the same again.

Review: Okay, I have two confessions to make.

Confession # 1: I've always avoided any book by Fannie Flagg because I thought they were mainly for older people. (Hi, my name is Janelle and I'm a recovering book snob.)

Confession # 2:  I've never seen the movie Fried Green Tomatoes, and did not realize that this was the book the movie was based on. (Apparently, I also live under a rock.)

I would love to say that I picked up this Fannie Flagg book because I was determined to broaden my horizons but, unfortunately, that's not the case. It took the Crazy Book Swap, courtesy of Wallace at the blog Unputdownables, and my swap partner Cass to make me finally step up to the plate.

I'm glad I did!

The first word that comes to mind after reading this book is COMMUNITY. The story of Mrs. Cleo Threadgoode (aka Ninny) is one of a small town who continually looked out for each other. An open-minded and accepting group of people, they provided a entertaining background for this story.

My favorite thing about this book was the attention given to each character, main or background, and to Whistle Stop, Alabama. It's been a long time since I've liked loved every single character in one book. Each character's story, seamlessly linked by the town's newsletter (The Weems Weekly) was captivating; I was just as interested in Idgie and Ruth's love for each other as I was Smokey the hobo's journey or Arvis Peavy's transformation from boy to ladies' man. Their tales were poignant, infused with humor and warmth.

This isn't just a story of community. Flagg also touches upon race relations, women's lib and same-sex relationships. She doesn't preach, instead she uses this community, this town to demonstrate acceptance of all people.

Evelyn's story, though less explored, is the one I related to most at this particular time--
"This morning, as they drove out to the nursing home, she realized that her life was becoming unbearable. Every morning she would play games with herself, just to get through the day. Like telling herself that today something wonderful was going to happen...that the next time the phone would ring, it would be good news that would change her life..."
That's what I get for being a book snob. There are points where I feel like this now and I'm in my twenties. Evelyn is 48. (Hmmm...I may also be a recovering ageist...) She feels as if she's going insane (largely due to low hormone levels and going through "the change"). She feels like "she has gotten lost somewhere along the way". It isn't until she meets Ninny that something in her begins to change. Through the stories of Idgie, Ruth and the Whistle Stop Cafe, she begins to find her place and take charge of her life.

(Seriously, Idgie is a rock star. This character, though immature at times, is passionate about everything and gets things DONE. I wanna be like Idgie...just sayin'.)

This is an uplifting story and it's one I needed at this particular moment. Light-hearted, witty and moving, Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe is definitely a keeper. Sorry, Ms. Flagg, for being stubborn and not giving in sooner!

LitSnit Grade: A

(Thanks to Wallace at Unputdownables for the Crazy Book Swap & to Cass of Bonjour Cass for this book!)

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