Genre: Chick lit

Notes: Makes me want to turn off my electricity, sit on the porch, and talk to my neighbors instead of watching TV.

Review: Whistle Stop, Alabama is one of those small towns that the older generation pines for.  The sense of community, the ability to leave doors unlocked, and knowing everyone in town.  The town obviously has it’s bad qualities too, like pervasive racism and segregation that are represented throughout the book.   I mean, Deep South in the 1930s in pretty  much racism central.  I like how Flagg doesn’t shy away from the fact that the n-word is used almost exclusively when speaking about black people, the power and pervasiveness of the Klan, and the “Whites Only” signs affixed from everything like restaurants to laundry trucks.  Her use of these descriptions show just show how ingrained racism was in daily life.

“Fried Green Tomatoes” begins in a nursing home in the 80s when Evelyn Couch is visiting her mother-in-law.  Evelyn sneaks away to enjoy a candy bar (or two or three) when another resident of the nursing home, Ninny Threadgoode, begins to tell Evelyn stories of Whistle Stop and her life there.  At first, Evelyn just thinks of Ninny as an annoying old woman, (because, who wouldn’t?   She just starts talking out of the blue and doesn’t even introduce herself) but Ninny becomes a friend to Evelyn and changes her life forever.

Ninny’s recollections of Whistle Stop teach Evelyn to strive for more than mediocrity in her life and to live for herself.  That, to me, is really the message and the theme of this book.  Evelyn finds herself stuck in a marriage because that’s what good girls do.    Good girls don’t have sex before marriage (or they’ll be sluts), then they get married (they might be called homosexuals), have children (might be called frigid), and live with their husbands until happy ever after.  But, to Evelyn, it feels as if she just plays an uninspired, unhappy part.  She never got married because she wanted to.  She never had kids because she wanted to.  She never did anything because she wanted to.  She did things because her world expected certain things.

In the novel, the characters who stand out  the most are the protagonists who who live for themselves and don’t listen to what society dictates.  Idgie Threadgoode is probably one of the most interesting, dynamic characters I have ever read.  She’s like the female Huck Finn and Scout Finch rolled into one.  She falls in love with a woman, Ruth Jamison, and they run the Whistle Stop Cafe together.  The relationship between Idgie and Ruth is never really explained, other than Idgie loved her and they lived together.  This nonchalance is intriguing for a lesbian relationship in the Deep South in the 30s.  The whole town accepts their relationship and thinks nothing of it.  Their silence speaks volumes.

After listening to Ninny spin her tales of Whistle Stop, Evelyn begins to model her life after Idgie’s.  She starts to live for herself and stops thinking about what a respectable woman in the late forties would do.  She creates an alter ego, Towanda, that rages against the people who make her mad.  One of the most hilarious scenes in the novel is when these two girls in a little VW bug whip into a parking space in front of Evelyn as she patiently waited for the spot to open.  She girls walk away laughing saying “Face it, lady, we’re younger and faster than you.”  When they come back, Evelyn rammed their car with hers not once, not twice, but six times and says “Face it, girls, I’m older and I have more insurance than you.”  BOOM!  Owned.

This book is funny, sad, and nostalgic all rolled up into one.  I would highly recommend it to anyone looking for a good read about strong female characters.

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