There was a huge windstorm in the Puget Sound area, that left us without power for a day and a half and turned out to be a blessing in disguise by giving me the opportunity to read this entire book from start to finish. What a treat! What wonderful storytelling! I loved the movie, and I love the book more. The book has many more characters – Big George’s wife and children, the Threadgoode siblings and their spouses. I especially loved Sipsey’s graveyard of heads, the saga of Railroad Bill, and the deeper story of Smokey Lonesome. As in the movie, there is much slipping around in time to quilt the entire story, and Flagg is a master at it.
Of course one of the main questions I see in almost every commentary about this story, and it is more strongly implied in the book than it was even in the movie – were Ruth and Idgie lovers? What I came away with was: does it matter? The Whistle Stop Cafe and the lives of those who passed in and out of its doors, whether the front door for whites or the back one for colored, were about love, community, looking out for each other and taking care of each other, even at the risk of life itself. Love is love, no matter with whom it manifests or how it is expressed. That assurance of linked and shared humanity from the past was Ninny’s gift to Evelyn in the present. The movie also left the question of whether Idgie and Ninny were the same person. The book makes it clear, they were definitely two different people. Idgie just might still be out there, a bee-charming will-o’-the-wisp.
It made me absurdly happy to see that one of my favorite movie lines of all time was taken directly from the book: “Face it, girls. I’m older and I have more insurance.” Towanda!
Technology and our bigger-better-faster-more society have robbed us of many things. This book actually made me a little sad that I missed the Great Depression.