Tuesday, November 16, 2010
Book Two of the 7 Fantabulous Re-Reads: Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe
Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe by Fannie Flagg is more a favorite novel because of the movie, I think. The novel isn't absolutely fabulous, or even very captivating. I love it because it gave me more insight to the characters, and specifically, it let me see deeper into the relationship between Idgie and Ruth.
The novel is one of those odd works that continually flashes from the past to the present, and all over the place, so it takes a few pages before you adjust. Evelyn Couch is a middle-aged woman, afraid of death and afraid of life. She's in a loveless marriage, and constantly confused by the way people act. On a routine visit with her mother-in-law at a retirement home, Evelyn meets Ninny Threadgoode. Ninny is another "guest" at the retirement home, and her ramblings about the old days soon catch Evelyn's attention as she learns about life in the 30s and 40s in Whistle Stop, Alabama.
The Threadgoode family is one of the largest and most well-known in town. They treat colored peopel fairly and are the most generous people around. Their home becomes the favored place for picnics, weddings and celebrations. People meet and fall in love at the Threadgoode home, and Ninny's stories mostly revolve around young Idgie Threadgoode, the tomboyish baby of the family. After Idgie's older brother and best friend Buddy dies, Idgie refuses to get close to people. This goes on for a few years, until a young woman named Ruth comes to stay with the Threadgoodes for the summer as a church youth aid. Young Idgie immediately becomes infatuated with Ruth, and an odd relationship begins between the two.
The novel takes us simultaneously through Evelyn's personal crises and the war, depression and everyday life of a small Alabama town. The more Evelyn learns about Idgie, the more confident she becomes. She begins to think of herself as having an alter ego, Towanda, whose only goal is to right wrongs and take down evildoers. It's hilarious, really. She almost seems as if she's going off the deep end.
At the same time, we see Ruth move away to be married to a Georgia man named Frank Bennett, and Idgie is heartbroken. Ruth's devil of a husband is abusive, and she eventually gets the nerve to leave him and rejoin Idgie in Whistle Stop. Soon after Ruth's return, she realizes she is pregnant. Ruth and Idgie open a small cafe and after Ruth's ex-husband comes sneaking around, he mysteriously disappears. Investigators suspect Idgie and her hired man Big George, but no body and no evidence leads them to drop the case. Years later, though, Frank Bennett's truck is found near Whistle Stop, and Idgie and Big George are charged with murder.
While reading the story, Idgie and Evelyn become similar characters in your mind, and you root for them both fervently because they're such wonderful characters.
Although I enjoy the novel, I have to say that this is the one and only exception where I love the movie more than the book.
Next up: Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O'Dell