Tuesday, 8 July 2014

Book Review: The All Girl Filling Station's Last Reunion by Fannie Flagg

The latest offering from Fannie Flagg is 'The All Girl Filling Station's Last Reunion'.  Renowned for her humorous and heartwarming stories, including 'Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistlestop Cafe', Flagg serves up another sweet tale that I ultimately found satisfying and joyful.

The All Girl Filling Station's Last Reunion

The book alternates between two story lines, one modern day, and one that starts back in the 1930s.  In the present day, Sookie is a middle-aged lady with an identity crisis, ever since she accidentally discovered some adoption papers that throw into question her esteemed Southern lineage.  The other storyline starts as America becomes involved in WWII, and shows Fritzi and her sisters doing their bit for the war effort by signing up to become 'WASPS' (the equivalent of the UK's ATA, Air Transport Auxiliary), ferrying planes around the US to free-up male service personnel for combat.

Halfway through, I had a small issue, in that older female characters are often portrayed as comic, or tragic.  Apparently that's all that's left for a woman once she's reached a certain 'sexless' age.  Sookie is a bit of a comic-tragic character to start off with, and I thought that this book wouldn't get past the stereotype - how wrong I was.  The main characters are drawn with complexities that make them seem very real (apart from maybe Marvaleen?!), and by the end of the book, Sookie had 'grown', and I felt a sense of real celebration of the achievements of American women during WWII.

I've noticed in reading lots of other reviews, not just of this book but of others by many different authors, that there's been a bit of a backlash against the kind of character that Sookie starts off being, the older woman who is a pushover and is perceived by readers as 'weak'.  I wonder if that's because we now have these expectations that women should all be 'strong' and if you're not strong then obviously there's something wrong with you, as if every woman should be out there stamping on their male colleagues in their Louboutins to get to the top of their career, whilst simultaneously raising children, being an excellent chef, and keeping their home in interior design magazine shape.  Apparently the skill of keeping everyone happy and putting the needs of your family before your own is not considered a virtue and doesn't require any strength at all.  Anyway, I digress!

Flagg's style makes this an easy read that you'll whip through in no time.  I found the ending very touching and heartfelt, and if you can get past that possible initial aversion to Sookie's character (and that of her mother), then you'll be rewarded with a tale of heroism that will fill you with pride.

The All Girl Filling Station's Last Reunion is out now by Random House, and available on Amazon here.  I was sent a copy of the book for review, but as always, views are my own!


  1. This sounds like a lovely novel to chill out! I'll look for it!
    Coco et La vie en rose / Bloglovin / Facebook

  2. Interesting review, but it was that second to last paragraph that really stuck out to me. You definitely have a point that there are all kinds of strength in the world, some of them more obvious than others. There should always be a place in fiction (and in real life) for those whose strength lies is supporting others, being kind, and making sacrifices. However, I think one of the reasons that people take issue with that kind of character is that for a long time, that was all that women were expected to be, and it was considered transgressive for them to demonstrate more traditionally masculine kinds of strength. Of course, the fact that women are now expected to display masculine virtures at the expense of feminine ones is progress of a sort, but it still places a higher value on the masculine than the feminine. It's such a thorny issue, and I wish that people could just accept that there are all kind of people with all kind of traits in the world, rather than trying to establish the "best" kind.

  3. My fellow Jessica above took the words right out of my mouth about strength. I have witnessed all kinds of strength in my time, and like to think I've put forth many varieties of my own. Some roared with the ferocity of lions, others were silent and patient like a loyal St. Bernard, others sprung out of no where like a kitten hiding behind an armchair and yet all carried with them the same note of endurance, stamina, tenacity, and gusto, simply presented in different guises. It's important, I think, for writers to portray characters with a wide range of types of strengths (doing so often creates a cast that is much more akin to our own world and the people who comprise it) and doubt I would be put off by Sookie's portrayal if I read this book.

    ♥ Jessica

  4. Sounds like this would be a great holiday sunbathing book!

    Salt and Chic // UK Fashion Blog


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