by Fannie Flagg
First sentence: “The Whistle Stop Cafe opened up last week, right next door to me at the post office, and owners Idgie Threadgoode and Ruth Jamison said business has been good ever since.”
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I don’t quite know where to start. Perhaps I should say that I saw the movie years and years ago, and while I liked it, I’m not sure it really stuck with me.
But when Cass said the book was one of her favorites, I figured I needed to give the story a second look. And I’m glad I did.
It’s not a book for 20-somethings, though the mystery underlying the vignettes might have some appeal. But that’s not what I got out of the story. In fact, I had a hard time picking out much of a story at all. That’s not to say I didn’t enjoy it. I did. But, it took me a while to realize that the book is a kind of fictionalized oral history. Once I accepted that, then I found I was able to enjoy the book more, taking the stories for what they were: reminiscences of a full life.
That I loved the characters helped as well. I looked as forward to visits with Mrs. Threadgoode as much as Evelyn did. I loved hearing about Whistle Stop, about all the characters — even with all the 1930s area Southern racism — and their antics. It’s a cozy book and a welcoming, homey one, too, one that makes you feel like you are a part of the community. It shows both the positives of small towns (how everyone bonds together in a crisis, the support systems, the community building) and the negatives (nosiness, lack of privacy, prejudice). It doesn’t sugarcoat anything, which, in turn, makes everything resonate more.
And then there’s Evelyn. Ah, the quintessential doormat middle-aged wife and mother. I think I enjoyed her “awakening” most of all. Firstly, because it came through the stories. And secondly, because I think she needed it. To find fire and want and to stop being so dang selfless all the time. Sometimes, it’s okay to do something for yourself, and to be angry at the injustice in the world.
It’s a wonderful book and I’m glad I had a chance to visit with it.