Book reviews

Posts tagged ‘Fannie Flagg’

The All-Girl Filling Station’s Last Reunion by Fannie Flagg

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The All-Girl Filling Station’s Last Reunion is probably best-suited to die-hard Fannie Flagg fans. I loved Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Café when I read it more than twenty years ago but these two stories were too similar for me to rate The All-Girl Filling Station’s Last Reunion as highly. Both use the formula of a present-day story and long-ago story with (mostly) likeable characters who have obstacles to overcome.

The ‘present-day’ story in The All-Girl Filling Station’s Last Reunion follows Sookie Earl, a fifty-nine year old woman who is a wife, daughter, mother and friend. Sookie lives in a small town in Alabama where keeping up appearances is important, particularly to Sookie’s elderly pain-in-the-you-know-where mother Leonore (this description is delivered in Sookie’s style, just so you know. I have no trouble saying the word ‘arse.’)

When Sookie accidently discovers she was adopted, she is shocked and anxious, although in some ways not surprised as she has never felt able to live up to her mother’s flamboyant style and over-the-top ambitions.

Sookie’s search to find out who she really is leads into the ‘long-ago’ section of the story, which follows the lives of Fritzi Jurdabralinski and her family during the 1930’s and World War 2. Fritzi’s father owned a gas station in a town in a small town settled by Polish immigrants in Wisconsin, which was managed by Fritzi and her sisters during the early part of the war. The girls ran a kissing booth, and organised dances and other fund-raising activities at the gas station to raise money for war efforts until they were forced to close the business. Later Fritzi, who had previously worked as a barnstormer performing daredevil antics and flying planes, worked as a WASP (Women Airforce Service Pilots) for the US military, where she moved planes and taught male pilots to fly. I loved learning about the WASPs, who were largely unrecognised by the US government and people for many years.

Although I finished the story, it seemed to me as if the author’s writing formula is too familiar. Sookie’s role was similar to Evelyn’s in Fried Green Tomatoes, while Fritzi’s was the Idgie character.

Fannie Flagg is comfort reading and there is nothing wrong with that, but I am ready for a new story from her.

 

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Can’t Wait to Get to Heaven by Fannie Flagg

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Can’t Wait to Get to Heaven by Fannie Flagg is a feel-good book full of characters who are mostly too good to be true. For those who are interested, Fannie Flagg also wrote Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle-Stop Café, the book and movie of which are much the same style as this story, and full of small-town, nice people who have small-town adventures. (I know, I know, people aren’t ‘nice,’ but in this author’s and story’s case, no other word is right).

Can’t Wait to Get to Heaven starts with a terribly old woman, Elner Shimfissle, falling out of her tree and dying. Elner shouldn’t have been in the tree in the first place, but she wanted the figs to make fig jam and didn’t want to bother anyone. (I would love to know if the author knows the ‘FIGJAM’ acronym, it is widely used in Australia, but don’t know if it is commonly used in other places around the world).*

After falling from the tree, Elner was taken to hospital where she died. Word got out and the news flew around town, devastating her family and neighbours.

While she was dead, Elner was lucky enough to go to heaven, which turned out to be in an old friend’s kitchen (and there was Caramel Cake). Elner was also happy to find that heaven was a place and time from her past when she had been happiest. This particular friend also starred in a Fannie Flagg novel of her own, Standing in the Rainbow, which I read years ago and enjoyed. If I remember correctly, Elner appeared as a minor character in that novel.

However, Elner didn’t stay dead, but came back to life and frightened hospital staff and family who were in saying their good-byes. By the time this happened though, her neighbours had cleaned out her fridge, another friend had written her obituary and her death had been announced on the community radio. Luckily, Elner’s ratty old brown dressing gown hadn’t already been thrown out.

The story is full of loveable characters, funny characters, slightly annoying characters and characters who could have gone bad but thanks to Elner, turned their lives around. My favourite character was a chain-smoking, whinging hairdresser called Tot, whose “children had been nothing but trouble from the very beginning, even more so after they hit puberty. If there was a fool within fifty miles they had either married it or had numerous offspring with it.”

The story is full of funny little sentences in the same style as the example above. For example; Elner’s mother’s name was Nancy Nuckle, “and she married a man named Knott, so her full name was Mrs. Nancy Nuckle Knott.”

For those who like to eat whatever the characters are eating, there are recipes in the back of this book for Caramel Cake, Deviled Eggs, Corn Bread and other yummy things.

Can’t Wait to Get to Heaven is light and sweet, the sort of book you finish and forget. I laughed aloud a couple of times while reading, and found it well suited to read between more serious stories.

*In case you’re wondering, FIGJAM stands for; F*** I’m Good, Just Ask Me.

 

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