Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle-Stop Cafe

by Fannie Flagg

Hardcover, 1987

Status

Available

Publication

New York : Random House, c1987.

Description

Mrs. Threadgoode's tale of two high-spirited women of the 1930s, Idgie and Ruth, helps Evelyn, a 1980s woman in a sad slump of middle age, to begin to rejuvenate her own life.

User reviews

LibraryThing member EBT1002
This novel is laugh-out-loud funny and poignant and irreverent. In some ways, it seemed dated. Evelyn's emerging feminist consciousness definitely feels like it fits in the 1980s (when the book was published), but that's part of the appeal. The book captures that particular era of the development of feminism, the dynamics of post-Gloria Steinem notions of the female gender role.

Still, the much more interesting and less time-worn parts of the novel are those that take place in the past --- in Whistle Stop, Alabama, during the Depression and through WWII. Idgie is a delightful character, challenging gender roles and fighting bigotry and injustice even while committing any number of micro-aggressions herself. Her love for Ruth is sweet, although much about that love is left ambiguous. The African-American characters are too stereotyped, but so are the good old boys. And I loved the descriptions of the trains: the comforting sound of a train whistle blowing in the distance, the pleasures of riding on a train through the dark countryside, and the importance of the railroad to small communities throughout the south (and other regions of the country, I suppose). Frank gets his come-uppance and as a reader I was perfectly glad that he does.

I winced much more now than I did 25 years ago at Mrs. Threadgoode's unthinking micro-aggressions, too. But [[Flagg]] seems to be doing all this on purpose: getting us to think about the evolution of consciousness. Good people live in a place and a time. Idgie and Ruth were about as radical as they could be in a small Alabama town in the 1920s (in truth, they were more radical than possible), and Mrs. Threadgoode teaches Evelyn to shift her perspective on what it means to be a woman in the 1980s. That's not to let any of them off the hook and I wonder how [[Flagg]] would portray them now, but it is to say that I very much enjoyed the adventures of Idgie and her friends and family, and I laughed out loud at times. The book glosses over the very real pain of poor folks during the Depression, of African-Americans living during Jim Crow in the deep south, and of women trapped in horribly abusive marriages. It also exposes the classism, racism, and misogyny that ever allowed (and still allows) such horrors to occur. And it does so with warmth and humor.

It also made me hungry.
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LibraryThing member countrylife
Two women strike up a friendship at a nursing home, one a visitor and one a resident. They come to rely on one another, one for company and one for a titillating story told in installments during her weekly visits.

I've enjoyed two other Fannie Flagg books, and was getting accustomed to all the sunshine and rainbow writing. But this one was too overdone for me. In a large family in the 1920s American south, one discovers herself a lesbian, and every one in the family and town is just hunkie-dorie with it? That didn't seem realistic. All the families with 'colored' help, and the 'coloreds' just live and breathe and have their being, just as happy as they can be, in their white families. Come on, now.

Ms. Flagg's characterization runs as it always does, with her good old southern folk. Cleo said the reason the store failed was because Poppa couldn't say no to anybody, white or colored. Whatever people wanted or needed, he just put in a sack and let them have it on credit. Cleo said Poppa's fortune had walked right out the door on him in paper bags. But then, none of the Theadgoodes could ever say no to anybody. Honey, they would give you the shirt off their backs, if you asked for it.

Of course, she has her conflicts thrown in – wife-beating, promiscuity, murder, euthanasia, death, alzheimers – but the layers are all held together with that too-sweet frosting of her ideal of good old southern-ness. I didn't care for this one at all.
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LibraryThing member nmhale
Fried Green Tomatoes is the inaugural book in the reading group that my friends and I are forming, with the theme of food in literature. We thought it would be fun to read, discuss, and then eat food from the books. Yum!

Fannie Flagg is a nice starting point. Her book is very easy to read - it relies on voice more than other literary techniques, with a lot of dialogue and character interaction and quick images and descriptions. I've read before that southern writers have their own genre, so to speak, a flavor that is distinctly southern, and Flagg certainly catches that vibe, with a light hearted spirit that I appreciated. As far as southern writers are concerned, I've only read Faulkner and O'Connor before, and their tales are considerably more depressing.

The characters here are quirky, but not as grotesque or tragic, even when tragic incidents occur.
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LibraryThing member Erratic_Charmer
I’ve wanted to read this book, like, forever, and recently grabbed a used copy in London. A bout of homesickness for the American South meant I couldn’t resist reading it any longer, and so it was time to put the library books aside for another few days. It’s a lot of fun. Fried Green Tomatoes has a chatty, gossipy tone, with lots of little narratives jumping all over the timeline of the 20th century. In an interview at the back of this edition, author Fannie Flagg says that she suffers from OCD and ADD – it shows, but that’s not a bad thing! Although the characters get more than their share of genuine suffering (much of the story takes place during the Great Depression, and there are black characters living in the American South of decades past – no more need be said), the overall tone of the book is upbeat and hopeful.… (more)
LibraryThing member bookworm12
This novel, made famous by the 1991 movie, tells the story of two pairs of women. The first is Evelyn Couch, a chubby, middle-aged woman with self-esteem issues and an elderly lady, Ninny Threadgoode, who Evelyn meets while visiting her mother-in-law in a nursing home. Mrs. Threadgoode quickly befriends Evelyn and enthralls her with stories of her life in the small Alabama town of Whistle Stop.

The second story is that of Ruth and Idgie, the two women who run the town’s well-loved café. Ruth is a sweet-natured, beautiful lady with a young son named Stump. Idgie is a wild tomboy who drinks, shoots and swears with the men. Their love and friendship defies labels and stereotypes and binds them together for life.

I’ve loved this movie for years, but I somehow missed the book until now. I’m so glad I finally read it. The movie really did a wonderful job with the adaptation, but I think it missed some of the major issues from the novel. I was surprised by how many stories about race relations were in the book.

I loved watching Evelyn transform from a meek doormat to a happy, confident woman. At the beginning, Idgie is the polar opposite character, she’s just bursting at the seams with life. You just can’t beat her passion and spunk. I loved her relationship with Stump. She could talk to him in a way no one else could. She was the same way with the kind hobo, Smokey. She had a way of knowing exactly what people needed and giving it to them while asking for nothing in return.

The story bounces back and forth through the decades starting in the 1920s and finishing in the 1980s. The short chapters introduce us to dozens of southern characters, all of which manage to steal our hearts.

The author deals with serious issues, domestic abuse, racism, murder and more, but she does so while maintaining her sense of humor. One example is the sporadic “The Weems Weekly” which appears every few chapters. One Whistle Stop resident, Dot Weems, writes the bulletin on the small town news. She gives her personal commentary on the events and talks about “her other half (husband)” in a hilarious way.

I wasn’t expecting to like this one as much as I did. I can see this becoming a comfort read in the future. It was also a perfect book to read before my upcoming road trip to Alabama.
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LibraryThing member ElizaJane
Evelyn Couch goes to the nursing home with her husband as he visits his mother ever week. Evelyn quickly gives her best wishes and then hurries out to the waiting room. It is hear that she meets Ninny Threadgoode, an 86 year old woman who starts taking from the second Evelyn sits down. Ninny talks about the past, not her life, but the life of all the people she used to know and especially Idgie and Ruth two very special friends. Evelyn becomes caught up in this story and ultimately her life is changed forever.

The story is told through very short chapters that move back and forth through time. There are several narratives: the past, the present and local newsletters and newspapers. We follow the Threadgoode family and all their kin and townsfolk from the late 1920s through the 1980s.

This is absolutely a beautiful, wonderful, funny, heartwarming, story. Not much really happens plotwise, it's just a story of the lives of a group of people. The characters are just so truly wonderful I could not put the book down and when I had finished I was so sorry it was over. It's a story of good times and bad times, white folks and black folks, deaths and accidents, the young'uns and the old folks and how all together these things are a part of life. Wonderful book. Read it.
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LibraryThing member herebedragons
#3, 2004

I recently viewed the film of the same (well, similar) name, and it was very interesting to experience them so closely together.

A really lovely story, well crafted. More so in the book than in the film, although the film did an excellent job (IMO) of capturing the essence of the book (not surprising, as Flagg was one of the screenplay writers). Actually, I found that the film had far more emotional impact on me . . . in the book, things were rarely surprising, because of the way she layered the story; you almost always got a hint of what was to come before the fact, which made it all less intense. In the book, there are two stories going on, both of which are mostly chronological (IIRC - the movie may have skipped around a bit, and there is one big flashback, but mostly it kept moving ahead). In the book, the "current day" storyline moves forward, but the historical one skips around all over the place (mostly in the 1930s through the 50s). Actually, in the book there is a third "level" of storytelling, as we see not only the events themselves, but news reports about them, as well. It was very cleverly put together.

For me, the essence of the story was family - and that "family" is the people you choose to be with, in addition to those related to you by blood. This is brought out right from the start, when we learn that Ninny (the "narrator" of much of the story) was "adopted" by the Threadgoode family. And throughout, we see strong bonds between the people in the town of Whistle Stop, those who are related to one another, and those who aren't, both black and white. It's a tight-knit community, and something which I've really never experienced personally. In my own life, I have certainly never lived anywhere that the neighbors knew and cared that much about one another - I don't know if it's the way my family interacted with others, or just that things are different now in most places.

The other thing that struck me about the book is the relationship between Ruth and Idgie. In the book, it is clear to me that, not only were they lovers, but that everyone in the town acknowleded and accepted this. This was hinted at a tiny bit in the film, and I'm surprised that it wasn't a bigger issue in the film, considering the weight it has in the books. In any case, I thought it was a lovely message of acceptance and love. Unsurprisingly, a story set in this period in the southern U.S. is likely to deal with racial issues, and I enjoyed the relationships, love and loyalty between many of the black and white characters, as well. And this is, as it turns out, integral to the central "mystery" of the book, but to go into more detail here would be a fairly major spoiler.

So, I enjoyed this book and would recommend.

LJ Discussion
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LibraryThing member punxsygal
First it is the story of Evelyn, who is feeling the effects of menopause, and her visits with "Ninny" Threadgoode in a nursing home. Over desserts and iced tea, Ninny reminisces about her life and the lives of residents of Whistle Stop, Alabama. The stories revolve around the friendship of two other women, tomboyish Idgie and the lovely Ruth, who ran a small cafe around the time of the Depression.

While Ms. Flagg's writing is lovely and her characters are well developed, I was bogged down by the two and three page chapters bouncing back and forth in and between the various characters. I like to immerse myself in a book and the ultra short chapters kept cutting off the thread of the story, and thus, I would lay the book down.
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LibraryThing member EverydayMiracles
My Summary: A very character-driven book, Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe follows the story of the people who live in Whistle Stop Alabama from the late 1920s all the way through to Birmingham in the 1980s. The story is told in second and third person, going back and forth between conservations between Evelyn Couch and Ninny Threadgood.

Themes: Racism and race relations before the civil rights movement and after; vague GLBT themes; small town life

My Thoughts: I loved it! This book is a new favorite of mine, which took me by surprise.

I really enjoyed reading about the various lives in Whistle Stop, Alabama and the stories that were threaded throughout the novel. I also felt that this was well-accomplished and neatly done by Fannie Flagg, though there are many others who disagree (see reviews on any of the networking sites listed above).

If you haven't seen the movie (and I hadn't, would you believe it?), please be aware that this book jumps around in time quite a bit, from the twenties to the thirties, to the eighties to the forties to the twenties and back again, over and over. Sometimes story lines drop off entirely only to be picked up again much later in the book. This worked for me, but I can see how others might have struggled with this.

I hear the movie is better than the book -- it's going to have to work hard to do that for me when I get a chance to see it!
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LibraryThing member MrsLee
I wasn't going to keep this book, due to some of the material in it, but I think I will. It deals with life as it sometimes is. Things don't always turn out the way we think would be perfect, but we can find contentment anyway. A great story of women living, surviving and finding joy within.
LibraryThing member JanaRose1
I may have been the only one who didn’t know Fried Green Tomatoes was based upon a book. Consequently, I was thrilled when I saw a tattered copy in the used bookstore. Ms. Flagg is an engaging author. Her characters sprang to life through her writing style, leaving the reader begging for more.

Like the movie, Cleo Threadgood, age eighty six, shares her memories of life in Whistle Stop, Alabama with Evelyn Couch, a younger woman who is attempting to discover who she is. They meet in a nursing home and strike up an unlikely friendship. The story alternates between such memories and Evelyn’s journey of self-discovery.

If you like the movie, you will find the book to be just as good, if not better. I highly recommend this book, and the author.
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LibraryThing member MsBridgetReads
This book for me is a solid 4.5 stars.

I am so glad that I found this book at the library and decided to read it.

I adored Mrs Threadgoode and all of the characters of Whistle Stop. I loved watching Evelyn grow into a stronger woman and develop a lot more confidence in herself as the story went along.

How the people stood together, stuck up for one another: black and white alike. Even stood up against the KKK!

But of the whole story, my favorites of course were Mrs. Threadgoode, Dot Weems, Sipsey & Idgie! Like I said, I loved them all, but those were my top favorites! The only reason I only gave it a 4.5 out of 5 stars was because there were some parts of the book I got kind of bored with. There were some stories that she talked about some people that just didn't really interest me but I am glad she put it in there still because I would have wondered what ever happened to many of them.

The ending had it's sadness and I hated to see some things end, but, there is one part at the end that will have you smiling and so happy! I just couldn't help but smile at the last couple of pages.

The love that all the characters had for each other was just amazing. Even for the time it was set in most of the story, and to see the love many whites had for their black friends and how they took up for each other in so many ways. How, even during the tough times, they were willing to still give to each other whenever they could.

This book is just about the love of family, friends and friends who become each others families!

There isn't a whole lot I can say without giving away too many spoilers for those who haven't read the book or seen the movie. I just enjoyed this little town called Whistle Stop, Alabama and it's cafe that was the center of their little world! It had me wanting to find a small little town with that same amount of love some where! (Just without all the racism of course! lol)
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LibraryThing member oldblack
This is an unusual book, so I found it difficult to rate by comparison with other books. There are lots of short chapters which jump around in time, and sometimes I was frustrated that we weren't getting to know the characters enough. Nonetheless, it was fairly satisfying in the end. I would have liked to have focused more on Idgie and Ruth, the two main characters. We learnt about Idgie's passion for Ruth, but we saw very little from Ruth's perspective.
I'm a little put off by less-believable parts of a book, and this one had a few, but maybe real life in the mid-20th century southern USA does look a little unbelievable from my 21st century perspective.
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LibraryThing member PaperbackPirate
It was easy to escape in this sweet story about friendship, family, love, and overcoming racism and hardship.

The story begins in 1929 in Whistle Stop, Alabama and centers around the Threadgoode family, in particular 2 lesbians, Idgie and Ruth, that run the Whistle Stop Cafe. It is told in the 80s from Idgie's sister-in-law's (Mrs. Threadgoode's) perspective, as she recounts anecdotes from her day to a woman (Evelyn) escaping visits with her mother-in-law in a nursing home. As Mrs. Threadgoode shares her memories with Evelyn each Sunday, it somehow begins helping Evelyn with her own midlife crisis.

Also sprinkled throughout are witty local news blurbs from the Whistle Stop bulletin, and at the end of the book there are real recipes for all the delicious food you could have had at the Whistle Stop Cafe. Too bad I don't cook.

If you're looking for a feel-gooder, Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe will feed your soul.
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LibraryThing member SueinCyprus
It took a day or two to get into the book; it flits between the 1930s and the 1980s and I had a hard time keeping track of all the people in the 1930s. But gradually the main characters emerged and I found myself eager to read more.

The story in the 1930s is shocking in places, dealing with rampant racism (there are many instances of a word that is now taboo), violence, infidelity, and yet acceptance of a (presumably) lesbian couple. There’s an ongoing mystery, too, whose perpetrator is revealed in a flashback towards the end of the book.

Despite a Southern American culture of drop-outs, legal apartheid and paternalism, there’s a warmth that seeps into the pages. There’s a sense of extended family, and of caring for strangers which is rather lacking in the 1980s section. It’s cleverly written, intertwining past and present as it does, with poignancy in the last pages.

Recommended if you’re interested in American social history of the 1930s, or just want a good read that’s different from the norm. The film with the same name is excellent too; screenplay was written by the author of the book, so it sticks to it pretty closely.
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LibraryThing member DeltaQueen50
Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Café by Fannie Flagg is a nostalgic, entertaining and funny story set in the small town of Whistle Stop, Alabama during the Depression years of the 20th century. The book does not flow in chronological order but jumps back and forth over the years according to the story that is being told. The main storyteller is Ninny Threadgoode, an elderly resident of a nursing home who reminisces about her home town during the weekly visits of her friend Evelyn. Along with Ninny’s stories there are inserts from The Weems Weekly, the Whistle Stop weekly bulletin written by the local post-mistress. Most of the stories are centered on Idgie and Ruth who, together, run the Whistle Stop Café.

There is a certain style and cadence that authors from the American south excel at and Fannie Flagg is no exception. Her folksy writing style invites the reader to take a comfy chair and settle into her story. Although side-splittingly funny at times, this author does not shy away from the serious or difficult subjects. Racism, segregation, wife beating and murder are laid out in her warm and honeyed tones. All aspects of life are on display here but I believe her main message is woman‘s empowerment.

I loved this poignant heart-warming story that encourages one to learn to accept what life has to offer without judging or moralizing. As for the issue of empowerment we see Evelyn brought out of her own depression by Ninny’s stories and the portrayal of Idgie and Ruth’s relationship was both heart-touching and strong. In fact, one of the best things shown in this book is the simple acceptance that the town of Whistle Stop gave to Idgie and Ruth. Their love for each other is no secret, they are simply seen as soul mates who belong together.

I admire the way Fannie Flagg writes, and I now have a plan to eventually work my way through all of her books.
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LibraryThing member RevWiss
Evelyn Couch, an empty-nester woman who is unable to find meaning in her life, finds personal strength and a new zest for living through the stories and friendship of Mrs. Threadgoode, a nursing home resident.

Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe is essentially about the relationships of two sets of women—Evelyn and Mrs. Threadgoode in the present (1980s) and Idgie and Ruth in the past. At the start of the novel, Evelyn has no purpose and finds her life unbearable. Her kids are grown and don’t talk to her, her marriage is essentially loveless, and she has no job or friends. During her visits to see her mother-in-law in the nursing home, Evelyn starts to develop a close friendship with Mrs. Threadgoode, another resident at the home. Mrs. Threadgoode recounts stories of life in Whistle Stop, Alabama from about the 1920s onward. Many of these stories center on two close friends and lesbian lovers, Ruth and Idgie. Evelyn’s and Mrs. Threadgoode’s growing friendship and inspiration from the strength of Idgie and Ruth help Evelyn become a happier, more confident person.

The importance of friendship is the central, unifying theme for the whole novel. The story skips around to different times, different cities, and different characters. Yet through all of the changes that occur over time and place, the constant is that kindness and friendship can triumph the many hardships that people might face in life.

Fried Green Tomatoes is a very emotional book. The characters are very likable (with the one obvious exception) and easy to empathize with. Consequently, readers will share in the emotions of the characters through both joyful and painful times. It’s also hard not to feel a sense of sorrow and loss for the gradual transformation of Whistle Stop from a bustling village into a ghost town.

I really enjoyed the book. Other readers my get more out of the relationships in the book than I did. I was much more interested in the story and setting. I was lost in a sort of nostalgia for the café and the “simpler times” of Depression-era Whistle Stop. Although the book has a leisurely pace, I found that it read very quickly; I couldn’t put it down because I had to know what was going to happen next. I highly recommend it.
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LibraryThing member AdonisGuilfoyle
Well, here's an anomaly - a book that isn't as good as the film adaptation! Fannie Flagg's novel is almost like a screenplay waiting to be brought to life by the actors. The emotional and dramatic scenes that I remember from the film fall flat here, with one narrative spoiling the events of the other, and none of the characters really makes an impact. Idgie is one of those annoying 'feisty' heroines that everybody loves but nobody really knows, and I didn't warm to her, or Ruth either. The reminiscences of the old woman in the nursing home are exactly that - folk tales, full of larger than life personalities and comic events. Evelyn Couch, to whom Ninny tells her stories, is more sympathetic, and I enjoyed her feminist rages as 'Towanda the Avenger' and her revelation about balls. Great fun.

The novel is a quick, light read, but the film really tells the story.
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LibraryThing member nnylrac
The book and the movie are both very good, but there are some surprising differences. It was almost like parts of the story were rewritten for the screenplay. I'm not trying to say that's uncommon, it just didn't seem necessary.
LibraryThing member phalaborwa
Forced myself to finish it for a book discussion. Had it's moments of humor, but otherwise completely inane.
LibraryThing member Katie_H
I really love this movie, but as usual, the book is much better and vastly different. In 1985, two women, Ninny and Evelyn, meet and develop a strong friendship. They share treats and conversation while Ninny spins the story of Whistle Stop and its inhabitants, weaving relationships through generations in an enchanting tale of the Old South. The journey is equally important for both women, allowing Ninny to remember and embrace her past while helping Evelyn to accept her past and look forward to her future. Two significant differences exist between the book and the movie; Idgie and Ruth's relationship is blatently lesbian (in the movie they were just close friends), and the racial atmosphere of Alabama was a much more pronounced theme. Flagg's storytelling is bittersweet with many touching moments, and the cast of characters is wonderful. This is a heartwarming look at life, death, love, and friendship, and a great example of Southern Literature.… (more)
LibraryThing member cestovatela
A good book that could have been better -- the stories about life in a small Southern town were cute, but they would have packed more punch if the author had chosen to deal with the main characters' relationships in a more realistic way.
LibraryThing member MissLizzy
My favorite Fannie Flagg novel, no question. I actually hated how the movie was so tuned-down: Ruth and Idgie's relationship was slimmed down, and the story was cut down quite a bit. But then I guess that's why books are always better. I really love the Weems' Weekly--it has all the southern flavor and good 'ol hometown simplicity that can still be found in parts of east Texas.… (more)
LibraryThing member RogueBelle
Wonderful Southern fiction -- alternately hysterically funny and tearfully poignant. What's stuck with me the most since reading the book several years ago are the friendships of the women -- particularly Ruth and Idgie. Anyone who's seen the movie ought to read the book, too -- there are some differences, and there's just plain a lot more to the book (as is usually the case).… (more)
LibraryThing member coyle220
A book of southern women's relationships, plus some recipes, and a modern empowerment tale. Idgie and Ruth become dear friends and run a small-town cafe in the 1930s after Ruth leaves her abusive husband.

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