Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe

Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe by Fannie Flagg
Mass Market Paperback, 402 pages, including recipes
Random House Publishing, 1987
ISBN-13: 9780804115612
very highly recommended

An American classic resplendent with the charm, grace, and grit of all good southern literature, Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe is Fannie Flagg’s enduring tale of the beloved folks who live in a small Alabama town. At its center are some truly remarkable women, connected by a place and a generosity of spirit grounded in family, good friends, and good food.
The story begins in 1985 with the friendship between shy, middle-aged Evelyn Couch, sadly aware she’s gotten “lost along the way,” and Ninny Threadgoode, an eighty-seven-year-old resident of the Rose Terrace Nursing Home in Birmingham. Evelyn soaks up the older woman’s stories of Whistle Stop, Alabama, where Ninny’s irrepressible sister-in-law Idgie and Idgie’s friend Ruth ran a cafe–the center of life in this small town. Indeed, it is the story of wild, wonderful Idgie, and her big sense of humor and bigger heart, that give Evelyn the courage to find her own happiness.
My Thoughts:

I have seen the movie, Fried Green Tomatoes, but couldn't remember if I had ever read the book. I have read all of her other books, and Flagg's Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe is also certainly worth reading. The book, naturally, is better than the movie. In a heartwarming, endearing style, Flagg not only captures a feeling of warm, Southern hospitality through her characters, she also manages to touch on some hot issues, but does this with such grace and charm that few could take offense. The story is set in two time frames. The earlier story begins in the 1920's while the present day story starts in 1985. The story set in the past is slowly revealed and developed throughout the whole book, and partly through Mrs. Threadgoode's stories. Evelyn Couch's friendship with Mrs. Threadgoode and listening to her reminisce/tell stories about her past, helps present day Evelyn, as she struggles with her self worth. I didn't have any trouble following the various storylines and time frames. Dates are clearly given at the beginning of each new section. (I hesitate to say chapters because some sections are one page.) Stories in both time frames are equally engaging. The characters are well developed and memorable; the dialogue is easy to follow. Very Highly Recommended


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. Idgie says that for people who know her not to worry about getting poisoned, she is not cooking. opening

Evelyn Couch had come to Rose Terrace with her husband, Ed, who was visiting his mother, Big Momma, a recent but reluctant arrival. Evelyn had just escaped them both and had gone into the visitors' lounge in the back, where she could enjoy her candy bar in peace and quiet. But the moment she sat down, the old woman beside her began to talk ... pg. 3

"It's funny, when you're a child you think time will never go by, but when you hit about twenty, time passes like you're on the fast train to Memphis. I guess life just slips up on everybody. It sure did on me. pg. 4

One hour later, Mrs. Threadgoode was still talking. pg. 8

"Idgie used to do all kinds of crazy harebrained things just to get a laugh. She put poker chips in the collection basket at the Baptist church once. She was a character all right, but how anybody could ever have thought that she killed that man is beyond me." pg. 9

"I, for one, am delighted at the new addition to our busy street. Just think, now you can mail a letter, have a meal, and get your hair done all on the same block." pg. 26

"And when she couldn't bear to be home any longer, she'd just take off and go stay with Sipsey over in Troutville... but she never did cry. She was too hurt to cry... You know, a heart can be broken, but it keeps on beating, just the same." pg. 35

Evelyn was forty-eight years old and she had gotten lost somewhere along the way. pg. 38

The night she and Ed went to their thirtieth high school reunion, she had been hoping she'd find someone to talk to about what she was feeling. But all the other women there were just as confused as she was, and held on to their husbands and their drinks to keep themselves from disappearing. pg. 42

The quiet hysteria and awful despair had started when she finally began to realize that nothing was ever going to change, that nobody would be coming for her to take her away. She began to feel as if she were at the bottom of a well, screaming, no one to hear. pg.61


Anonymous said...

this has always been when of my comfort faves. I may have read it about 5 times now since high school. I never like it less.
I like the movie pretty well too--but of course, it can't compare to the book.
Incidentally, none of Flagg's other books, for me, have even come close to the level of enjoyment this one has

Lori L said...

This really is a comfort book. I can definitely see myself rereading it. I remember liking Welcome to the World Baby Girl quite a bit, but I'd need to read it again to compare the two. Of course, since all my books are packed up (with a couple short stacks left out) that will have to wait.

Jane said...

This is my favorite Fannie Flagg book too. I would like to re-read this one. I read quite a few of her books a few years ago, because I loved this one so much. I really liked Welcome to the World Baby Girl & Standing in the Rainbow.
The last one I read was Can't wait to get to Heaven, & I really just didn't care for that one. I did get some good recipes out of it though. LOL
Reading your review made me want to read it again.

Lori L said...

I think I will reread some of her books after we're done moving. Rereads are a nice reminder why you liked the books so much the first time.