Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Recent Read: The All-Girl Filling Station's Last Reunion by Fannie Flagg

Have you ever decided what you think will happen in a book based on the title, front cover or the first few chapters, then left confused when that doesn't happen? I recently listened to The All-Girl Filling Station's Last Reunion by Fannie Flagg (Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe). While I enjoyed the book overall, the title just simply doesn't measure up to the storyline of the book.

The book takes place in two different times and places that come together later in the book. Sookie is a 60-year-old woman living in Alabama who discovers that she was adopted, a fact that her nonagenarian mother (still living) never revealed to her. Fritzi is a young woman in Pulaski, Wisconsin, working with her family at a filling station when the United States enters World War II. As Sookie begins researching her past, she puts previously unknown pieces of her history together, which fits in with the Jurdabralinski sisters.

I had in my head early in the book that with "Reunion" in the title, Sookie would discover not that she had been adopted, but that her mother had worked at at all-girl filling station during World War II when some women were placed in men's roles while they were overseas. I had in mind that Sookie's mother Lenore would be invited to a reunion of all the women who worked at this filling station. Sookie, whose relationship with her mother wasn't an easy one, would have traveled with her mother to this reunion. All this extra time together would have helped them talk through some things from their past, and come away from the trip with a greater understanding of each other and a stronger mother-daughter relationship. I had also imagined that Sookie would have really enjoyed meeting all the women who knew her mother decades before and hearing those women tell stories about her mother that she'd never heard.

As the book went on and my first ideas didn't line up with the plot, I formulated a new plan: as Sookie learned of her birth family and their business, she would become interested in meeting her mother and aunts who had run the filling station during the war. "Reunion" would mean that Sookie would travel to Wisconsin to meet them all, and this would be her first meeting of her birth family.

Neither one of these theories panned out, and I won't go into detail in case it spoils the book for the rest of you. I will say, though, that while I enjoyed a fun story with some historical base, the book needs a better, truer title. The title just doesn't measure up with what the book is really about.

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