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.