- Title: Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe
- Author: Fannie Flagg
- # of Pages: 497
The day Idgie Threadgoode and Ruth Jamison opened the Whistle Stop Cafe, the town took a turn for the better. It was the Depression and that cafe was a home from home for many of us. You could get eggs, grits, bacon, ham, coffee and a smile for 25 cents. Ruth was just the sweetest girl you ever met. And Idgie? She was a character, all right. You never saw anyone so headstrong. But how anybody could have thought she murdered that man is beyond me.
Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe is a mouth-watering tale of love, laughter and mystery. It will lift your spirits and above all it’ll remind you of the secret to life: friends. Best friends.
I wonder why we decided to limit ourselves to just five. What if I need a sixth star? Where am I supposed to get it from? Just bringing up some serious issues the book community needs to sit down and figure out.
Evelyn Couch is a depressed, oppressed, and generally unimpressed woman. On one of her visits to Rose Terrace nursing home, accompanying her husband who’s visiting his mother, she happens to sit down next to an old lady. Before she knows it the old lady starts telling her her life story, talking to her as if she were a friend, just dropping by.
The same thing happens the following week, and as time goes by the visits are not so incidental anymore. Mrs. Threadgoode finds a friend, someone to talk to, to share with. Evelyn finds someone who loves her back, who makes her feel good about herself, whose existence slowly pushes her back off the ledge she’s found herself on, with her loveless marriage and suicidal thoughts.
In between the weekly meetings we get a glimpse into historical Whistle Stop itself, mainly through short stories, including some that provide background information Mrs. Threadgoode doesn’t know to tell Evelyn, and the weekly bulletin written by Whistle Stop resident Dot Weems. I really enjoyed seeing how Flagg pieced together a whole story, sewing together bits and pieces with all kinds of narratives, and from different times and places (the late 20’s in Whistle Stop on one end, the nursing home in the 80’s on the other). The bulletin pieces were actually some of the best parts of the book. They were also very amusing. “By the way, my other half says that somebody asked us over for supper, but he can’t remember who it was. So, whoever asked us, we will be happy to come, just call me and let me know.”
Despite touching on some heavy topics, the book is one of those easy reads, where you breeze through hundred-page sittings without even noticing the time passing. The writing was excellent, the characters were all very likeable, and at some points I actually found myself laughing out loud. I immediately fell in love with Mrs. Threadgoode and her endless chattering. She was extremely entertaining, with her funny commentary and reactions to things Evelyn told her. “Evelyn said, ‘Did you know that a tomato is a fruit?’ […] Mrs. Threadgoode sat there bewildered, […] ‘Well, I just cain’t think about it, so I’m gonna pretend I never even got that piece of information. […] What about a snap bean? You’re not gonna tell me that’s a fruit too?’” I also really enjoyed watching Evelyn develop as a character, from an unhappy woman just floating through life, and into someone with aspirations, goals, and a sense of self-worth.
Speaking of Evelyn, the book had a very impressive cast of strong female characters, including both ones that started off that way and ones that slowly grew into it. They were strong, brave, opinionated, sensible, independent – the list can go on and on. It also dealt with the topic of racism, making it obvious that the ones opposing it (by that period’s standards) were the “good guys”. There’s also a not-explicitly labeled lesbian relationship. The book never really gets into the details, but it’s clear that that’s what it is, everyone knows, and no one minds. I’ve actually recently discovered that the movie adaptation (Fried Green Tomatoes, 1991) cuts that out, which is, in my opinion, a disgrace. Positive LGBT representation in the media should always be supported, especially when it’s literally handed to you on a silver platter by being written into the original subject matter. I know that 1991 is not 2017, but unfortunately these things continue to happen today, including other issues such as white-washing. Basically, we’ve still got a lot of work to do.
But back to the book. To top it all off, I think Flagg’s greatest achievement was how the book seemed to just come to life. For an entire week, I actually felt a part of Whistle Stop. I kept having that experience when you find yourself thinking about some character and then remembering it’s just a fictional someone from the book you’re currently reading. (And it’s so disappointing every time.) I don’t think it gets much better than that.
What did you think of Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe? Loved it? Hated it? Have any other Fannie Flagg books to recommend? Let us know!