Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Café (1986)

by Fannie Flagg

Nostalgic looks at small town life can slip into sappiness, but not Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Café, which author Fannie Flagg has imbued with marvelous, unwhitewashed characterizations, real social issues, and plainspokenness. It's hard to imagine a reason anyone could have for disliking this book.
At the core of the tale is the irrepressible Idgie Threadgoode, who ran a café in Whistle Stop, Alabama, with her partner Ruth during the '30s and '40s. The story of Idgie and Ruth and their relatives, friends, and townspeople unfolds largely through the reminiscences of Idgie's sister-in-law Ninny, interspersed with some narrative chapters and newspaper clippings of the town gossip columnist.

In the 1980s Ninny Threadgoode is living in a nursing home. Depressed, middle-aged Evelyn Couch, who visits her mother-in-law there, is more interested in spending time with Ninny and listening to her recollections of old Whistle Stop. Along with her growing fondness for Mrs. Threadgoode, Evelyn is inspired out her doldrums by hearing about the brave exploits of feisty, big-hearted Idgie to confront wrong and ensure that no one, white or black, went hungry.

Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Café has some basis in fact. Flagg, a comedian, actress, and writer for television, film, and theater, had an aunt who owned a café alongside railroad tracks, and Flagg interviewed many nearby residents to develop a storyline. The book was on the New York Times bestseller list for 36 weeks. Among Flagg's other books are the bestsellers Daisy Fay and the Miracle Man and Welcome to the World, Baby Girl!


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