This time around, Lazy Lambs Book Club decided to take a break from the Christopher Moore books we’d chosen before and read Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe by Fannie Flagg. Here’s the description:
Folksy and fresh, endearing and affecting, Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe is the now-classic novel of two women in the 1980s; of gray-headed Mrs. Threadgoode telling her life story to Evelyn, who is in the sad slump of middle age. The tale she tells is also of two women–of the irrepressibly daredevilish tomboy Idgie and her friend Ruth–who back in the thirties ran a little place in Whistle Stop, Alabama, a Southern kind of Cafe Wobegon offering good barbecue and good coffee and all kinds of love and laughter, even an occasional murder. And as the past unfolds, the present–for Evelyn and for us–will never be quite the same again…
I particularly enjoyed this book because Whistle Stop is set just outside Birmingham, Alabama, and that’s where I’m from! I don’t think I’ve ever read a novel set here before. In Alabama, once or twice, but not this kind of familiarity with the places and names I know. This is probably the only novel in the world that mentions Vinegar Bend in south Alabama, where my grandparents are from. And it’s deeper than place names — Fannie Flagg conveys all the lovely Southern things, the food and the company and the way some folks really would embrace Idgie and Ruth’s relationship and never say a thing about it. At the same time, she shows all the awful things, the overt racism and sexism and violence. That mention of Vinegar Bend comes when a vagrant man is remembering the worst job he ever had, in a turpentine farm there… And my great-grandfather was a rich turpentine man in Vinegar Bend. Probably not many owners in a town the size of a dinner plate, although I can’t be sure. Wince.
So, I think this is kind of an important novel, and it’s important that it was written by a native Southerner. Someone who wasn’t from around here wouldn’t be able to tell the good with the bad like that. The Southern-ness comes through in the writing, too. The style of speaking, and the way the narrative moves around in space and time. With that in mind, I’m surprised so many people on the internet call it “fluff” or “for those mindless days” or “chick-lit.” I didn’t see it that way at all, and I wonder if it’s because the book is mainly about women, or because it’s set in Alabama, or both.
Those thoughts, then, are the answer to my discussion-question contribution: What do you think of Fried Green Tomatoes’ sense of place? Open-ended for whatever thoughts you happen to have on the subject. I haven’t seen the movie yet, but feel free to bring that in as well, and visit Diana and Allison for more book-club posts.