The Wonder Boy of Whistle Stop (Whistle Stop, AL #2) by Fannie Flagg

Fried Green Tomatoes has to be one of my favorite movies of the 1990’s. I watched and re-watched the movie dozens of times when I worked at a store that sold videos. The themes of female empowerment and strong bonds of friendship appeal to me in such a visceral way. I finally got around to reading the book a few years ago and recently re-read it in anticipation of the sequel. (Read my review of Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe here)

“Bud Threadgoode grew up in the bustling little railroad town of Whistle Stop, Alabama, with his mother Ruth, church-going and proper, and his Aunt Idgie, the fun-loving hell-raiser. Together they ran the town’s popular Whistle Stop Cafe, known far and wide for its friendly, fun, and famous “Fried Green Tomatoes.” And as Bud often said to his daughter Ruthie, of his childhood, “How lucky can you get?”

But sadly, as the railroad yards shut down and the town became a ghost town, nothing was left but boarded-up buildings and memories of a happier time.

Then one day, Bud decides to take one last trip, just to see where his beloved Whistle Stop used to be. In so doing, he discovers new friends, new surprises about Idgie’s life, and about Ninny Threadgoode, Evelyn Couch, other beloved Flagg characters, and also about the town itself. He also sets off a series of events, both touching and inspiring, which change his life and the lives of his daughter and many others. Could these events all be just coincidences? Or something else? And can you go home again?”

The Wonder Boy of Whistle Stop (Amazon) defied my expectations that the sequel would not be as good as the original. In some ways, the book is superior, as it focuses more on Ruth and Idgie and Idgie and Buddy’s life after Ruth dies. The non-linear narrative is repeated for this book, going back to the 1930’s, up to current times, showing how Buddy turned out, and even how his daughter Ruth fared.

Dot Weems is back, writer of newsletters about Whistle Stop’s inhabitants, who scatter far and wide after the closure of the railyard. Bud, who lost his arm in Fried Green Tomatoes as a child, is not held back by his disability. He becomes a veterinarian, marries Peggy and has a very happy marriage, and names his daughter Ruth. Ruth grows up and marries, giving birth to two children and living in the same neighborhood as her mother-in-law, who never really accepts her. Her children are grown, and her husband dies, leaving her feeling empty inside.

We also get to revisit Evelyn Couch, who became so successful at selling Mary Kay it’s not funny. She eventually pours her earnings into a car dealership, and has continued success, expanding the business many times over, appearing in the car commercials on television and becoming a household name. She sells the dealership and plans to retire, but those plans change when through a series of events, she meets Bud Threadgoode’s daughter, Ruthie. The biggest surprise is when Whistle Stop rises from the ashes like a phoenix, thanks in large part to Evelyn Couch and her dreams of a tourist destination.

It was so nice to go back and visit with the folks in Whistle Stop after all these years, and meet new friends. While it is helpful to have read Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe’, it is not necessary to appreciate the warmth of this book. Listening to the audiobook narrated by Flagg herself was a treat.

This is the 17th audiobook I’ve listened to this year as part of my 2021 Audiobook Challenge.

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