Tuesday, April 1, 2014

The All-Girl Filling Station's Last Reunion by Fanny Flagg

If you have never read a book by Fannie Flagg, make it a top priority to do so.  She is one of the premiere writers of Southern fiction, and she always delivers a heart warming story filled with eccentric characters, humor, and emotional twists.    Certainly you've heard of Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Care.  The only downside of Fannie Flagg's novels is that there are not enough of them.  Seriously, if you have never read one, get your hands on one, and I certainly can recommend you start with The All-Girl Filling Station's Last Reunion, her latest novel released a few months ago.

Now if you live in Wisconsin, you've probably heard of Pulaski, and more than likely you realize that the NE Wisconsin town was settled by Polish people.  If you're in the
Green Bay area, you may even make a pilgrimage there each fat Tuesday for the wonderful pastry called paczki.  To be honest, I had never been in Pulaski until a few weeks ago when the Christian men's choir that my husband sings in had a concert just north of there.  So imagine my surprise when Sookie Poole, Fannie Flagg's newest heroine and a Southerner through and through, opens a package containing her real birthday certificate and she learns she is adopted, that her real mother is the daughter of a Polish immigrant who settled in Pulaski -- a place she's never heard of.  So begins this riotous novel which alternates between Sookie (Sarah Jane's) hilarious attempts to reconcile her mother's decades old mantra that she must live up to the Simmons name with the obvious truth that she has NOT one drop of Simmons blood in her DNA and neither do her children.  Perhaps even worse is the revelation that she is 60, not 59, a truth that no woman will take lightly.  Alternating with Sookie's attempts to face her new reality is the story of Fritzi Jurdabralinski and her sisters, first generation residents of Pulaski, WI during the thirties and forties.  The oldest and guttiest of the four sisters, Fritzi learns to fly and starts a career as a stunt flyer/wing walker.  When WWII breaks out, she returns home and following her brother's enlistment and her father's illness, Fritzi and her sisters take over the family filling station -- thus the name, The All-Girl Filling Station.
Later, three sisters become WASPS, ferrying military planes to needed destinations.  In writing this part of the novel, Fannie Flagg does a superb job of telling the back story of the WASPS.  Despite being 368 pages, I devoured this book in almost one day and wished there had been more.

Please write another, Fannie.  I know now that I must look over all her titles and see if I've missed any.  Perhaps I will just reread some.  Despite, having finished The All-Girl Filling Station's Last Reunion, I may have to recommend it as a read next year for book club.  A final note -- reading this book will make every single reader appreciate his/her own mother and SO grateful that they were not raised by Lenore Simmons Krackenberry, Sookie's mother!

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