Monday, April 28, 2014

Miss Brenda and the Loveladies: A Heartwarming True Story of Grace, God, and Gumption by Brenda Spahn and Irene Zutell


Inspirational nonfiction is a title easily and sometimes frivolously  assigned to many memoirs, including Christian memoirs, but there is NO other way to describe Brenda Spahn's book about establishing Lovelady Center, currently the largest and most successful nonprofit transitional center for women in the US.  It all began in 2002 when Brenda and her daughter were ALMOST sent to prison on a tax evasion charge (I am leaving the details to Brenda to explain when you read the book.  She does a superior job of creating the drama around the charges).  When case is closed, Brenda feels a big change.  The trappings of money, success, designer clothes and bags no longer appeal to her.  Her heart leads her to help the women of Alabama's prison system.  She volunteers at work release center, sharing the gospel and praying one on one with the women.  When she learns two thirds of all inmates in Alabama will return to prison within five years of release, Brenda realized that the women needed a program that would help them change their lives after release -- a place where they would find hope, direction, and faith.  She clearly saw that the few that were lucky enough to be placed in half-way houses didn't do any better than those who were just released with a bus ticket back to their last address.

Bolstered with her faith that God was leading her, Brenda charges ahead and convinces the Alabama prison system to release to her seven parolees from Tutwiler, the notorious Alabama Woman's Prison.
She converts her Hob Hill mansion into a warm, inviting home, unlike any place these women have lived.  But within minutes of arriving, the group led by tough, loud Shay have scared everyone, including Brenda.  The supervisor, cook, and driver hired by Brenda all walk out, leaving "do-gooder" Brenda and her daughter Melinda alone with the group.  A tour of the bedrooms with REAL mattresses, followed by a nerve wracking trip to Walmart for "undies" opens a slight window of opportunity. as the parolees start to settle in.  As Brenda and several of the women themselves share the stories of the months that follow, readers will hopefully see God's healing hand at work.  Like Brenda, perhaps we can put away our quick judgments and see these women as God's beloved children, deserving of grace and forgiveness.

Once I started Miss Brenda and the Loveladies  I could not put the book down. It was more exciting and compelling than any fiction book I've read in months, and it certainly tops my list of nonfiction books for 2014.  This success story (although I am sure that there continue to be women  who arrive at the center who fail to turn their lives around) needs to be in the limelight.  I hope a quality film producer chooses Brenda and the Loveladies as a project.  As Brenda reveals her own financial and family struggles, it is clear again that God does not choose the perfect to carry out his work, nor does he lay a problem-free path ahead of his followers.   Brenda Spahn and Irene Zutell, you've done a great job of telling this story, and I sincerely hope the book's success helps the foundation grow and succeed.  Keep changing lives one by one.  I received a copy of this book from BLOGGING FOR BOOKS for review purposes.  All opinions are mine.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Vanished by Irene Hannon

Vanished opens with a powerful, suspenseful first chapter that will leave readers with a focused desire for answers almost as strong as Moira's own need.   Investigative reporter Moira Harrison is driving on a remote secondary road when an evening shower turns into a blinding downpour.  Distracted for a mere second, Moira looks up through the haze to see a woman's face.  Both terrified, there is no escape for either.  Despite trying to stop and swerve, Moira hits the woman.  Before Moira can collect herself and get out of the car, a "Good Samaritan" appears out of nowhere, promises he will check on the woman, call 911, and assures Moira that all will be okay.  Within seconds of his promise and his helpful assist to remove broken glass from her seat, Moira slips into unconsciousness, but not before she notices his distinctive wedding ring -- one just like her father's.

When she awakes later, an officer is there, but no ambulance was ever summoned.  In fact, the officer only stumbled upon the car by the roadside during regular rounds.  There is no evidence of an injured woman or a "Good Samaritan."  Moira's injuries are mild and officials remain skeptical as to why she was unconscious for more than an hour.  Despite her assurances that everything she has told them is truthful, law enforcement does not believe her story, chosing instead to believe she perhaps hit a deer.

As the days pass, Moira continues to be haunted by the woman's hazy, but terrified face and the crash that followed. Even with no support from the police, Moira is determined to find answers, so she contacts a PI firm.  Cal Burke, an ex-homicide detective, turned PI, agrees to do some background, pro bono work and soon Moira is as involved in the investigation as Cal is.  What the pair finds suggests that Moira's disappearing "Good Samaritan" could be a well known, respected doctor, but why would a man of healing abandon the site without calling 911?  And, why did the woman disappear?

Irene Hannon has a strong reputation for her suspense fiction.  While this one began with a punch that had me determined to keep reading, I thought the last two thirds of the book did not live up to the strong beginning.  As I settled into the story, it became apparent what had happened, and although minor details weren't clear until later, nothing came as a big surprise.  The ending itself seemed almost formula writing.  (Anyone who has ever watched a suspense movie knows the heroine will end up alone, separated for some reason from the "good guy" leaving the villain an opportunity to terrorize and threaten.  And, well, you know what HAS to happen after that, right?)  However, I must add that her villain is not your average villain and his motives will be a big surprise to readers.  Plausible?  I'm not sure.  Hannon has created within ther PI firm a group of characters whose life stories, especially their pasts, will provide the nuggets for creating more enjoyable, suspense books.   Maybe Moira, with her investigative talents, will also make future appearances.  If you like suspense, whether you've previously read Hannon or not, give this one a try.  Just know, by the middle of the book, you'll be reading just because you want to finish the story, not because you need to find out what is going to happen on the next page!


Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Reversible Sundress - Jump-N by Olive Ann Designs

Olive Ann Designs Jump-N Dress & Jumper PatternIn a recent post, I mentioned making reversible sundresses for my granddaughters last summer. Shondra of
Givemetoday left a comment inquiring what pattern I used.  I am happy to share information about this easy, delightful pattern.  It is called JUMP-N, includes sizes 1-6, and was designed by Olive Ann Designs.  Many other delightful patterns can be found at the website or you can simple search "Olive Ann Designs" to find other online retailers who sell her patterns.  I got my pattern last spring at The Bungalow Quilt Shop in Ripon, WI; however, I noticed she did not have more when I last visited.  

The pattern has ingenious, but simple construction.  Unfortunately the cover dresses don't highlight those features.  The top shoulder pieces are simple rectangles with elastic in them and they are attached in such a way that they are the shoulders for both sides.  On one side the fabric will match the body; on the other side, it will be a contrast.  The very bottom of the dress is longer for one dress, making it possible to form a bottom trim on the opposite dress.
When I made the dresses for my granddaughters, I used solid on one side and a bright summer print on the other.  You will want light fabrics.  Quilting cotton is okay, but I also used those cute summery prints that are seersucker-like.  For the size 3 dress, I embroidered (using my emb. machine) a fun novelty design on the solid side.  

Unfortunately, I seem to have given the dresses away without taking photos.  I try to document most of what I make now, but sometimes I just forget.  As you can see from the pattern there is a shorter version to be worn as a top.  I think I may make one of those for my youngest granddaughter this summer.

Olive Ann has some delightful original styles. Looking at the website this morning, I saw a pattern for another reversible dress - this one is a wrap style.  Oh yes, did you notice that there is an accompanying pattern for a doll dress (18 in. American Girl style)?  Making that dress was as easy as making the girl's version.  Sorry, I don't have photos, but if you are a sewer (I guess sewist is the new word), check out Olive Ann Designs and tackle a project for someone special.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Plain Faith: A True Story of Tragedy, Loss and Leaving the Amish by Irene and Ora Jay Eash with Tricia Goyer


Back in the late 1970s, Irene and Ora Jay Eash were a young Amish couple, busy raising their family and trying to live a good life as defined by the Ordnung and their community.  That all changed on a late evening ride home when a truck hit their buggy and their two young daughters were killed instantly.  Traditionally, the Amish are quite closed, especially about sharing their feelings and beliefs.  In the book Plain Faith, Irene and Ora Jay, with Tricia Goyer's assistance, have chosen to share how the tragic death of their daughters helped them see that their lives had been focused on rules, complete acceptance by their Amish community, and a life of "good works" when what they really needed the "simple" assurance that through Christ they had received a promise of salvation.  The family leaves their large, long established community in Indiana for a remote area in Montana about ten years after the accident.  Throughout the next decade, they find themselves becoming more involved with "Englisch" and even attend joint prayer meetings.  As they begin to read the Bible in English, they find many of their questions about personal faith answered.  Eventually they make a decision to leave the Amish, despite shunnings and frequent pleas from family in Indiana.

For those who see the simple life of the Amish as a model of faith, this journey may seem confusing.  Perhaps this short passage written by Irene will help readers understand how their thinking changed:
Ora Jay and I soon discovered that it was actually easier to share the good news of Jesus when I stopped wearing a head covering altogether.  When I had worn a head covering, people would see me as somehow different.  Their attention would be turned to my head covering, and they seemed to be thinking, If that's what you have to share, I don't want it.  It divided people from us, as it was still "us" and "them".  Now I'm walking in the freedom from pins, hems, and head coverings.  It's not in my vocabulary anymore.
My Amish family claims, " You've totally lost it."  But I say, " God has given us so much freedom in Him to look at Him and not at things."  Love is so much easier than judging.  It feels better deep inside, too.
The more you focus on side issues, the less you focues on Christ and you're wasting your time.  The more  you judge, the less you love.  The more you love, the less you judge.

Irene and Ora Jay found a "plain faith" that brought them closest to God, not within the group that had been their home and life for years.  They needed to take steps away from all that was safe and known to better know God.  I have long struggled with the many denominations of Christians, their differences, and the way the different groups treat each other and judge each other.  I've never totally reconciled that, but have settled on believing God has provided us with many ways to know and worship Him.  For some, liturgy and formality are necessary, while others can openly pray in their own words.  While some see God's presence in cathedrals, I see the love expressed by the builders of the simple country churches across America, and that is where I am most comfortable. This book really raised some questions about the beliefs of my Amish neighbors, but then we often never know the hearts of those around us.  I choose to believe that many Amish truly know God's love and salvation, but perhaps some, like Irene and Ora Jay, need to put aside the restrictions of the Ordnung and the constant judgment of their neighbors to concentrate on God's way for them.  Similarly, some "Englisch" need to make significant life changes to make a place for God in their lives.

As I type this, the young Amish of our neighborhood are playing volleyball on our neighbor's front yard, a sight both peaceful and carefree. Saturday as my husband left to run an errand, he passed a buggy with two teenage boys with their country music so loud, R. was surprised that the horse didn't spook.  Other times we've heard hymn sings from the same neighbors that could have been angel choirs. But we've also heard stories of families shunned just as Irene and Ora Jay were. While many outsiders view the Amish world as simple and right, we frequently see the complexities and hardships they face daily, especially the choices the young people must make.  In the end, I believe they, like all of us, make personal decisions to place God first, or their world, first.  

I would like to thank Netgalley and Zondervan Publishing for an e-copy of this book for review purposes.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

The Easter Donkey by Donna Thornton and Lynne Pryor, illustrator

The Easter Donkey Drupelet the donkey,
named after a tiny bump of juice on a raspberry, returns for another heartwarming tale in the newly 
released book, The Easter Donkey (Ambassador International; April 2014; $14.99, hardcover). 
Along with her farm pals from the 2011 hit The Christmas Donkey, readers will enjoy a fresh telling 
of the Easter story while following Drupelet’s journey to understand the gifts God has given to 
those who accept them. Drupelet isn’t just a character in a book– she’s a real 
donkey living on an Upstate raspberry farm with 
a family that loves her just the way she is. Author Donna Thornton grew to love children’s books 
while reading to her sons Robert and Stephen, but after they moved on to more mature stories, 
Donna started to write them. Her first book, The Christmas Donkey, experienced successful sales 
over the last three holiday seasons. “I hope The Easter Donkey is welcomed into many homes this 
spring,” says Thornton.

About the Author: Author Donna Thornton uses the animals on her mother’s berry 
farm to re-tell the greatest story ever told. She wrote The Easter Donkey not only to 
offer a fresh telling of the Easter story but to remind everyone of its wonder. This work, 
along with The Christmas Donkey, tells of Drupelet’s journey to understand the gifts 
God has given to those who accept them. She hopes her readers will also experience 
that wonder. Donna lives in the upstate of South Carolina with her husband, two sons, 
and two dogs.

About the Illustrator: Artist Lynne Ballenger Pryor was excited to provide the 
illustrations for The Easter Donkey, Lynne’s second illustrated book. She says, “I feel 
as if I developed a special bond with each of these animals that God created . . . it has 
been an exciting adventure to work with Donna as we made these animals come to 
life.” A professional artist who works primarily in watercolors, Lynne especially loves 
to paint landscapes and specializes in small town collages that represent unique parts 
of local towns. Lynne resides with her husband, three children, and two cats in upstate South Carolina.

My Review:  A short, but engaging story, THE EASTER DONKEY will make an understandable introduction to Holy Week, the progression from the hallelujahs of Palm Sunday to the quiet sadness of Maundy Thursday and Good Friday to the triumphant shouts of Easter morning. Stories behind symbols like the butterfly, dogwood flower, Celtic cross, and even the colors of Easter are explained at the end of the book.  Photos of the real animals of the raspberry farm are included, making a wonderful comparison to Lynne Ballenger Pryor's captivating illustrations.  I know this is a book that will be shared and enjoyed by my grandchildren for years to come.  This would be an excellent addition to the children's library at your church or would make a special gift at this season.  I received a copy of THE EASTER DONKEY from Ambassador International Publishing for my honest review.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Maybelle in Stitches by Joyce Magnin

About Quilts of Love: Quilts tell stories of love and loss, hope and faith, tradition and new beginnings. The Quilts of Love seriesfocuses on the women who quilted all of these things into their family histories. A new book releases each month and features contemporary and historical romances as well as women's fiction and the occasional light mystery. You will be drawn into the endearing characters of this series and be touched by their stories.

About the book: Maybelle Kazinzki can't sew. She was after all, the only girl in the seventh grade Home Economics class to sew the zipper in the neck hole of the A-Line dress they were supposed to make. But when she finds an unfinished quilt in the attic of her mother's house she gets the crazy idea to finish it---somehow, come heck or high water. She thinks it will help fill the lonely nights while her husband, Holden, is serving overseas during World War II.

Her recently departed mother's quilt is made from scraps of material Maybelle traces back to her mother's childhood, her grandmother's childhood and her own childhood. She tries to add one of Holden's stripes to it but the sewing is not going well and neither is her life. After receiving some harsh news, Maybelle's faith falters and she puts the quilt away and stops trusting God. But God is faithful---no matter what. And it'll take a group of neighborhood women armed with quilting needles to help Maybelle believe that.

Learn more about this book and the series at the Quilts of Lovewebsite.

About the Author: Joyce Magnin is the author of the Bright's Pond novels, including the award-winningThe Prayers of Agnes Sparrow. A member of the Greater Philadelphia Christian Writers Fellowship, Joyce is a frequent workshop leader and the organizer of the StoryCrafters fiction group. She lives near Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Learn more about Joyce at:

Joyce Magnin has established herself as a talented author with a unique voice in such novels as The Prayers of Agnes Sparrow and the delightful Harriet Beam books.  Her addition to the Quilts of Love series is a departure from the type of story I expected from her, but it was a heartwarming read.  For someone who had not read a historical fiction book centered around the WWII wives and women left to work in the industries supporting the war effort, this would be a good read.  Personally, I thought the characters in Lynn Austin's A Woman's Place were better developed and the plot was "meatier."  I didn't quite understand Magnin's inclusion of two women boarders at Maybelle's home, only to have them "disappear" suddenly.  Perhaps, we were to understand how everyone's world kept constantly changing.  I felt that Magnin's story showed how even grief was given a limited time, as everyone had to "move on" and deal with everyday life.
Maybelle shows that as she deals with her mother's unexpected death, and so does her friend Doris.

To readers who are enjoying the Quilts of Love series, you'll want to read this title, also. If you discover that you are fascinated by that time period and the lives the women and family left behind when the soldiers went off to war, I also recommend you seek out other WWII-centered books such as Lynn Austin's A Women's Place.  I received a copy of Maybelle in Stitches from LitFuse for my honest review.  All opinions are mine.

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Monday, April 14, 2014

Childhood library memories

Throughout my almost 3 years of blogging, I've made my love of libraries very clear.  That would seem natural for a librarian.  But it really does deeper than that.  The graduate school I attended was really big on personal reflections, often asking us to internalize what we learned and to look back on what shaped us.  During one of those courses, as I looked back on my love of books and education itself, I realized that one of my earliest and strongest childhood memories was going to our town's public library for the first time.  I can still see the children's room with its dark oak slanted children's tables and its countless shelves of children's books.  Realize that 1950s children's picture books were printed in mostly a four-color process, so those shelves were not lined with the gorgeous volumes that are produced today, but to me they were exquisite.  And the freedom to choose what would go home with me is a thrill that still captures me today. That joy and excitement over visiting the library followed me all the way through grade school, high school, and into adult hood. While some get excited by shopping bags full of the latest fashions, I get equally thrilled by my latest stack of library books.  I got thinking about that again tonight for two reasons. One, there is a meeting coming up at our library, a listening session with the county board president over library funding.  The second reason is this pro-library statement by Christine French Culley I read tonight via FACEBOOK.  I thought maybe some of you blog readers would connect with what she wrote.  Her thoughts echo mine and I wanted to share them.

It saddens me to hear so much press about libraries facing budget cuts and even closures.  I fully believe in fiscal responsibility, but I also realize what a treasure libraries are, especially for those who cannot afford to freely spend on books, magazines, dvds, and even computers.  I also believe free libraries are a keystone to a free country.  Ben Franklin believed it; Andrew Carnegie gave away millions and millions of his fortune to make sure that American towns had library buildings. 
We need leaders today who see that see that same value.  The look of the library may be changing ( some people may get their materials via electronic devices), but I believe that libraries are as relevant as ever.  The need for professionals who help people navigate the expanse of information is needed even more today than before.  The people who don't visit their local libraries and see what programs they offer or don't realize what they can borrow are just losing out.  I truly believe government officials, instead of wanting to cut funding, should be out promoting what the libraries do as a way of showing citizens (taxpayers) that they can get positive results for their contributions. I know of libraries that sponsor workshops on budgeting, wills, estate planning, and such.  The cost to put these on is minimal, but if another government agency put together such a program, I can guarantee the overhead would be significantly greater.  That's just one tiny example of what libraries can do.

If you stop by this blog more than once, you will probably find me rambling on about libraries again sometime.  Thanks for reading, and if you haven't been to your local library lately, GO!! And if you can, take a child with you!

Thursday, April 10, 2014

One Dog Canoe by Mary Casanova and Pictures by Ard Hoyt

Utterly Otterly Day by Mary Casanova

Our four year old grandson usually spends his Thursdays with us.  In the morning he attends nursery school for a few hours and then afternoons we play.  A master of the triple "T's" (trains, tractors, and trucks), E. told me this winter that he didn't like books.  To a retired English teacher/librarian, a person who has never been far from a book, I took this as a challenge.  As I told his 12 year old sister, also an avid reader, "We need to fix that!"  So I started bringing a different stack of picture books home from the library each week.  I never push them on him.  Instead I let him discover them on the bench in the great room.  When he wants to read, I'll always read, but sometimes I'll say that we just have time for 1 or 2 stories, and then he keeps bringing them until we've read all 5 or 6.  The 6 and 8 year old granddaughters also find the books, and I always try to have something humorous that fits their tastes.  At first Ethan was only attracted to the truck books, but we've expanded to other stories.  A real mechanical, precise guy, I think he sometimes doesn't "get" the imaginative, fiction tales, but I keep working on it, because I sincerely believe the power of understanding a story or telling a story impacts our ability to empathize with and understand the lives of others.

That brings me to Mary Casanova's stories Utterly Otterly Day and One Dog Canoe, both illustrated by Ard Hoyt.  I brought the otter story home and enjoyed it with E.  In it, a little otter thinks he can swim off by himself, and indeed, he does quite well swimming near some dangerous animals, but in the end he does need his family to get safely back home.  While looking over this book, I realized I'd always loved another book by the same duo --One Dog Canoe.  So the following week, when my 6 year old granddaughter asked me to be a guest reader for all three first grades, I decided to select the elementary library's copy of One Dog Canoe for my presentation.
In the the book, a young girl goes out for a leisurely canoe ride with her dog.  Despite her pleas that the craft is only a one-dog canoe, one by one other animals beg a ride and jump into the canoe.
Like many other children's book where the smallest creature makes the biggest difference, adding just one more (I won't tell you what animal, but it isn't the moose!!) becomes too much and everyone is dumped into the water!  The illustrations are humorous, and I love this book!!
I think the kids did, too, because this week I got the following huge thank you card from my granddaughter's class.  Her teacher is a wonderful first grade teacher and is always doing the extra to make every event special.  Did you need an excuse to read some fanciful or humorous stories?  Volunteer at your library or school to be a special reader.  I am sure there is some type of program.  If you have youngsters stopping by your place regularly, visit the library and get a stack of children's picture books.  Ask the librarian for the ones with the best stories (usually not the Disney or television-connected books).  Help some kids discover the best in children's lit.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

New Quilting Project uses ZigZag ruler

Monday I lunched with my friend Trina and we made a stop at the Bungalow Quilt Shop in Ripon, WI when we were done. This is an adorable shop with an enthusiastic owner whp picks the most cheerful patterns and fabrics.  I especially like that she has sample projects throughout the shop, many of them are simple children's garments.  I made several reversible sundresses last year after seeing the pattern made up in her shop.

Monday I did not make any fabric purchases there, but I did pick up a ruler called the zig-zag ruler by Char Hopeman of The Cotton Cottage Press.  Basically, it is a 5 in. square that has lines drawn on it so you can position the ruler at an angle on a strip of three fabrics sewn together.  When the squares are then pieced together you will get a chevron design.


I didn't have any real reason for buying the ruler; just wanted to add to my tools.  Tuesday I sewed some strips of pink and pink polka dot together and cut out muliple squares.  When pieced I ended up with two bright chevron strips.  So I went through my stash of pink fabrics and designed the following top.  It is a little large for a baby quilt and a little small for a twin, but I think some kid will enjoy it when quilted.  It will be a happy contemporary piece.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Flame of Resistance by Tracy Groot

flameTracy Groot won the 2013 Christy Award for historical fiction for her World War II story about the French Resistance.  Tom Jaeger, American pilot, is shot down over France just before D-Day.  Nursed back to health, Tom is given a chance to impersonate a German officer, visit an area brothel, obtain critical information and enlist the help of Brigitte, a prostitute who may be sympathetic to the resistance cause.  Brigitte has lost everything, but perhaps helping Tom will make a difference to an effort bigger than them all.  Tom readily accepts the plan, partly because he's promised his mother that his service will avenge the deaths of loved ones in the Netherlands.

Normally, I am quickly drawn into historical fiction books, and delving into World War II from a new angle has always been compelling.  So, I feel bad that I did not like this novel.  Brigitte and Tom's bravery was commendable, and their story interesting.  The Nazi officer who later interrogates Tom was as villainous as possible; the secret head of the resistance who cannot bear losing another agent to torture is heroic and sympathetic, but the plot jumps and is difficult to follow.  There are characters that I never did figure out their importance.  I feel bad writing a blase review of a book that won an award written by an author who has won many awards.  Perhaps there was something wrong with my state of mind as I read it.  I confess I was on vacation, but usually place and time do NOT affect how I interact with a book.

Bottom line:  Give the book a chance and let me know your reactions.

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!