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Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe: A Novel Hardcover – April 5, 2005
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"The people in Miss Flagg's book are as real as the people in books can
be. If you put an ear to the pages, you can almost hear the characters
speak. The writer's imaginative skill transforms simple, everyday events
into complex happenings that take on universal meanings."
"This whole literary enterprise shines with honesty, gallantry, and love
of perfect details that might otherwise be forgotten."
--Los Angeles Times
"A sparkling gem."
"Watch out for Fannie Flagg. When I walked into the Whistle Stop Cafe she
fractured my funny bone, drained my tear ducts, and stole my heart."
--Florence King, Author of Confessions of a Failed Southern Lady
"Admirers of the wise child in Flagg's first novel, Coming Attractions,
will find her grown-up successor, Idgie, equally appealing. The book's
best character, perhaps, is the town of Whistle Stop itself--too bad
trains don't stop there anymore."
From the Inside Flap
The remarkable novel of two Southern friendships--the basis of the hit film
"From the Trade Paperback edition.
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For readers and movie watchers alike: be advised that the rest of this review might contain what you’d likely classify as spoilers.
For readers of the book, it was interesting to see that Vesta Adcock, whose Whistle Stop history wasn’t mentioned in the movie, turned out to be Ed’s (Evelyn’s husband) aunt. There was a lot more of the history of the Otis’s, including how Sipsey came to be Big George’s mother, Big George’s children and their eventual history, as well as Smokey Robinson’s past and what became of him. Some of which was kind of gruesome and I can see why it was left out of the movie. You also get a glimpse of Ruth's son Buddy and his family in 1986 at the end of the book, which you also won’t get in the movie. Ninny's is much more of a non-stop rambling storyteller n the book, but just like the movie she's a delight to listen to. I just imagined Jessica Tandy's voice while I read.
Idgie's brother Buddy is hit by the train while goofing around with his friends and chasing a hat on the railroad tracks, but Buddy and Ruth did not have a crush on each other, in fact they never met. Buddy was in love with a sexually free woman named Eva whose dad ran the Dill Pickle Club, which is where Idgie became a fixture after Buddy died.
While no sexual scenes are written into the book, Idgie and Ruth were clearly in romantic love with each other and wind up living together, something that is alluded to but not made clear in the movie. “You love who you love” seems to be a lesson Idgie learned from Buddy and Eva. The movie alludes to their affair with several different scenes but backs off of outright putting it out there.
Ruth has already died when Idgie goes on trial for the murder of Frank Bennett, and it’s Smokey Robinson who comes to her rescue and gets Reverend Scroggins and all the gypsy hobos to come to her aid in her murder trial. Frank Bennett was even more of a jerk in the book than in the movie and while the judge isn’t actually fooled by anybody he has reason to be glad Frank got what he had coming to him, dismiss the case and let Idgie go..
Ninny Threadgoode in the book is definitely not Idgie Threadgoode, as the movie suggests at the end. Ninny Threadgoode does make it home after Mrs. Otis dies, then you get a glimpse of 1986 Idgie and her brother Julian running a fresh foods stand at the end of the book but due to the circumstances you know Idgie is not Ninny. I read a review somewhere that made a case for the movie having Ninny and Idgie being the same person in the movie. Ninny could have wanted to keep her identity a secret while she told Evelyn about herself as the younger Idgie. In both book and movie, Ninny was “adopted” into the family, leaving her free to have a crush on Buddy and then eventually marry Cleo. Once the story was told and Evelyn was her friend, Ninny felt comfortable letting her in on her wild life as Idgie..
If you enjoyed the movie I think you can still make up your own mind which ending makes more sense and feels better to you. I really liked the movie ending much more than the book ending; it just felt warmer and more uplifting to me, but I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book and I would not recommend skipping it. As for me, I went ahead and got the extended anniversary edition DVD Fried Green Tomatoes (Extended Anniversary Edition) of the movie that has scenes left out of the movie. I enjoy both
The Whistle Stop Cafe is a real place and still exists in business in Irondale Alabama, not far from Birmingham. I intend to go eat there and see if the food is as good as the book says.
I learned some good lessons from this book about people a lot like myself -- lessons I should have learned and taken to heart years ago. These characters treated each other well, helped each other out when someone needed help, and loved and celebrated each other. It's a story of the past that was gracious and rewarding. I wish that time would come back and maybe it will. This is a great book -- read and enjoy.
Who else can capture the essence of the south in a bygone era like Fanny Flagg? I don't know that either. I could almost taste the fried catfish, cornbread, fried green tomatoes, and pecan and coconut cream pies served at the Whistle Stop Cafe. But Flagg doesn't just invoke nostalgia. We get an unvarnished view of the segregated south and the shameful treatment of the "coloreds". The book made me chuckle, made me cry, and made me cringe. Any book that moves me that much deserves five stars.