November 5, 2015

Book 53: Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Café

Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Café
Fannie Flagg

After becoming quite familiar with this book from its reputation, I finally decided to read it. I found the book to be slightly rough going at the outset, as the framing narrative did little to draw me in: I found it to be a bit cloying and sentimental throughout and, much like the two present-day characters, would have rather preferred to spend my reading time among the bygone residents of Whistle Stop. Likewise, some elements of the main storyline can seem similarly haphazard, and the various diversions and backstories can seem either indispensible or irrelevant depending on the context and contents. The overall feeling is one of unevenness, aided little by the problematic handling of the book's Black characters. Yes, this novel intends to evoke midcentury Alabama; it was, however, written in the 1980s and Fannie Flagg should have made more of an effort to look at these characters through a more empathetic, modern lens. Despite some major flaws, the book does have a certain charm and, ironically perhaps in light of its poor treatment of race, excellent lesbian representation that feels no need to either hide nor trumpet its inclusive spirit. Idgie and Ruth's relationship is as natural to them and to the residents of Whistle Stop as any other, and while Flagg shies away from naming it outright her intent feels obvious. Representation is crucial, and it is always nice to see queer characters allowed to exist, happily, without being subject to the same five stories. Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Café certainly has its flaws, but its core holds a nice story of a bygone era, fully conceived and convincingly rendered, dripping in useful nostalgia.

Grade: B

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