Library Director’s Notebook
The name Fannie Flagg is synonymous, as anyone who has enjoyed Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Café, with delight, good humor and optimism, with a dash of seriousness added for good measure. This winning formula succeeds again with Flagg’s latest novel The All-Girl Filling Station’s Last Reunion.
Told through two major points of view, that of Sookie Poole of Point Clear, Alabama and Fritzi Jurdabralinski, of Pulaski, Wisconsin, and covering the years between the 1930’s into the present day,The All-Girl Filling Station’s Last Reunion is a story of the impact of family relationships, the search for identity, and the struggle for empowerment experienced by women in every generation. These are weighty themes, but in the magical hands of Fannie Flagg, even these topics are handled with a light, deft, often amusing touch. Yet, there is no doubt that a serious thread runs through the life stories of Sookie and Fritzi, making for a balanced presentation of two lives, well-lived.
Sookie, raised in the shadow of her domineering, albeit at times charming mother, has striven all her life to be a good daughter, loving wife, and indulgent parent. Often scatter-brained and always self-effacing , Sookie has fine-tuned duty and devotion into a fine art and holds a very important, if at times unacknowledged, place in the smooth functioning of her extended Southern family. In the middle of her predictable, somewhat tedious existence, Sookie is blind-sided by a letter that tips her entire world upsidedown, causing her, literally, to pass out. When she comes to , Sookie knows her life will never be the same. The question for Sookie is how will she ever tell her family and friends what she has just unwillingly learned about herself?
Sixty years earlier Fritzi, a high-spirited, adventurous young woman from a close-knit, hardworking family of Polish immigrants, is making her own life, rather than following the dictates of her well-meaning parents. As unlike Sookie as it is possible to be, Fritzi seeks adventure in work and in romance and allows no one to dictate her future. Fritzi trains as a daring aerialist in the early days of aviation, on the heels of Lindbergh’s historic flight. Having earned her pilot’s license, a rarity for men and almost unheard of for women, Fritzi is able to participate in the WASPS, a dangerous but rewarding new program for American women pilots during World War II. Flying huge planes, alone and without a co-pilot, Fritzi experiences the joy of flying and the satisfaction of knowing she is actively serving her country during wartime.
What could bring two such disparate women together, over thousands of miles and a lifetime of years? The intriguing mystery is revealed little by little throughout the book, in numerous short, fast-paced chapters, with plenty of laughter, warmth, and excitement, along with some moments of heartbreak. And just for good measure, there are not one, but two surprises kept for the final pages of the book. But the legions of readers who love Fannie Flagg’s stories will need no such incentive to keep reading and smiling to the end.