I read and reviewed this book on Goodreads a few years ago, but decided to read Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe‘ (AbeBooks) (Amazon) again so I could read the follow-up book, The Wonder Boy of Whistle Stop (AbeBooks) (Amazon), which was released in late 2020. I have to say that my feelings about this book have changed a little since I first reviewed it.
From the publisher: “It’s first the story 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. “
My original review said “I actually prefer the movie to the book, believe it or not. I’m not a big fan of jumping back and forth on a timeline (which this book does a lot), otherwise I would have given it five stars.” Now I would say that while Fannie Flagg jumps back and forth in time, it did not detract from the overall telling of the story. I’ve become a lot more tolerant of this type of plot device, so it didn’t bother me this time around.
If you get hung up on the fact that there may be/could be/not quite sure if there’s a lesbian couple in this book, then I’d skip the book. Let’s get one thing straight about Ruth and Idgie’s relationship: They were two incredibly close women. It really doesn’t matter if they were a lesbian couple or not. In the book, it’s never confirmed or denied, so there’s some ambiguity on the part of the author. I think she did that on purpose. Same thing with the movie, which I watched repeatedly when I worked in a video store. In the extras on the DVD, the actresses said they discussed whether Idgie and Ruth were a couple or just two extremely close women, decided their answer, didn’t tell anyone of their decision and played their parts. The people in their lives did not treat them differently, why should the reader?
The other main characters, set in the late 1980’s when this book was written, are Mrs. Threadgoode and Evelyn Couch. Evelyn’s mother-in-law is at the same nursing home as Mrs. Cleo Threadgoode, who quickly makes friends with Evelyn and tells her stories of Whistle Stop back in the 1920s and 1930s. By telling Evelyn these stories about Ruth and Idgie and the whole cast of characters, Evelyn realizes some things about her life and decides to make some changes because she’s inspired by the stories of the women. She’s not going to let anyone walk all over her anymore.
I enjoyed Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe a lot more the second time around and would recommend it to anyone that likes stories about strong women, stories with a sense of empowerment for women, and like stories about the close bonds of friendship.
Stay tuned! In a few weeks, I’ll be reviewing The Wonder Boy at Whistle Stop, the sequel/prequel to Fried Green Tomatoes.
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