Book Review: Fried Green Tomatoes by Fannie Flagg
Preview…First and foremost, Fannie Flagg’s poignant and light-hearted novel is a story about two friendships. The first of these friendships involves middle-aged Evelyn Couch as she struggles with being “too old to be young and too young to be old” in the mid-1980’s. While visiting her mother-in-law at the Rose Terrace Nursing Home, she happens upon good-hearted Ninny Threadgoode, who has an unending supply of stories to tell. Ninny recounts tales of her life in the small Alabama town of Whistle Stop (between 1920 and 1960), while the pair enjoys junk food treats and grows ever closer.
Featured prominently in Ninny’s stories are tales of Idgie Threadgoode and Ruth Jamison, lifelong friends who run the Whistle Stop Café. Idgie is a free-spirited tomboy, who continuously risks her reputation and safety to help people whom others consider undesirable. Idgie and Ruth become very close while Ruth is visiting a relative in town one summer. At the end of the season, Ruth returns to her home in Georgia to marry a man named Frank Bennett.
From time to time, Idgie journeys secretly to Georgia to make sure that Ruth is happy in her new life. On one such journey, she discovers that Frank is abusing his wife brutally. Idgie finally convinces her friend to leave her husband and to come stay with her in Whistle Stop, a very bold and dangerous move in the 1920’s.
Through Ninny’s narratives, old newspaper clippings, and a variety of inside-character perspectives, we become familiar with the residents of Whistle Stop, Alabama. We learn about charming bees, getting by with only one arm and the feats we would dare to help protect those we love. The story is also peppered with compelling mystery subplots, like ‘Who is Railroad Bill?’ and ‘Who killed Frank Bennet?” If you are looking for an entertaining read with deeper subtexts, then “Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Café” will be well worth your perusal.
You may like this book if…you enjoy warm-hearted Southern characters; you want to plunge deep into the ambiguous and touching relationships that women hold; you enjoyed the1991 film adaptation; you are interested in race relations in the early to mid-20th century; you like a strong-headed and strong-hearted heroine—Idgie Threadgoode stands tall above the rest; you— like Evelyn—feel stuck in an uncomfortable in between; you like books with neat chapter breakups that can be read slowly but that are so interesting you’ll probably charge through the whole thing in just a couple of days; you are looking for some good traditional home-cookin’ recipes (included at the book’s end).
You may not like this book if…you have difficulty keeping up with intricate casts of characters; you are annoyed by plot points that at times can seem just a little far-fetched; you have people like Ninny in your life, who can drone on forever, so you’d rather not voluntarily submit yourself to the ramblings of a charming old lady.