“I believe poor people are good people, except the ones that are mean . . .”
This is such a sweet story. Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe hops around in history — from the 1920s to the mid eighties — as Ninny Threadgoode regales a stranger (Evelyn Couch, played by Kathy Bates in the movie) with stories about her hometown: Whistle Stop, Alabama. In Whistle Stop, Ninny’s sister-in-law Idgie and her friend/partner/lover Ruth (it’s never really made clear, but it’s kind of neat how little it seems to matter to anyone–even back then) run a little cafe where the two ladies feed blacks and whites alike, and never turn away a hungry patron.
Miserable housewife Evelyn becomes engrossed in Ninny’s story about these two strong women, along with the many colorful characters in their town. She finds strength in the tales of the hardships they faced, and the courage with which they faced them. It’s uplifting without being cheesy, and Evelyn’s transformation into a woman in her own right — not just a wife or mother — is fascinating to follow.
This book contains a lot of nitty gritty details about race and its impact on people. Obviously, Alabama in the 1920s was not a great time to be African American. Flagg approaches the subject boldly and with sincerity but no preachiness (unlike other novels, such as The Help). No one is trying to save anyone else — they’re just trying to get by and help when they can. She also shows us how poor people — black and white alike — suffered during the Great Depression and relied on their community for help.
I really liked this book, which was at turns funny and sweet and sad. I would definitely recommend it, especially if you enjoyed the movie adaptation (which I vaguely remember and would like to rewatch now!)