I loved the movie, Fried Green Tomatoes, and I remember picking up the book, Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Café, but I don’t remember much about the book at all. I must not have liked it too much because a quick review of Flagg’s other titles tells me I haven’t read anything else of hers.
And I wish I hadn’t read this one.
For a while, it was just puzzling. Maggie, the protagonist, a former Miss Alabama, wants to do something rather drastic. Even though it’s quite clear what it is, Flagg, perhaps thinking she’s reeling us in, doesn’t name for it a while. And then she does reveal it (and Maggie’s ridiculous plan for accomplishing her goal) and pages and pages are going by and nothing, really, is happening. We don’t even know why she wants to take this drastic step.
Then it seems like Flagg realized that she didn’t have much of a plot going so there’s a subplot about a house (Maggie is a realtor) and who is going to sell it (it’s immediately obvious who is going to end up with it) and (cue suspense music) something mysterious that Maggie and her token black friend, Brenda, find in the attic.
Various other characters pop in and out as needed with little development and a great deal of superficiality. The whole story is just unbelievable – not as in amazing, but as in, “I don’t think any of these people are real and I don’t think any of this could happen in the way that Flagg describes.” Even the practical details – like doing with a business with a bank – are only distantly related to reality.
Given that Fried Green Tomatoes was lurking in my mind as I read this, it didn’t surprise me that Flagg picked up gender issues again. One element has potential but is recounted in exposition which deadens it; the other backfires spectacularly. And when Maggie says her experience with the anger she faced during one event because she was representing Alabama during the Civil Rights protests and Brenda’s whole life as a black woman, I wanted to throw the book across the room.
The ending was perfectly predictable; I was just glad it was the ending.
Charles Ellenbogen is the author of the teaching memoir, THIS ISN’T THE MOVIES: 25 YEARS IN THE CLASSROOM, and teaches high school English in Cleveland, Ohio. He lives in Shaker Heights, Ohio with Kirsten, his wife, Zoe, their daughter, Ezra, their son, Lincoln, their dog, and Chocolate Scales, their snake