Yesterday fifteen of us met to talk about this book and for over half of us, it was a re-read. We absolutely loved the book, loved the characters, the town and the setting. In fact, we concluded by saying that we'd like to read another of Flagg's books in the future.
It wasn't easy to pick a favorite character, but we leaned toward Evelyn Couch, just because of the way she stepped into her life and made it something she wanted it to be. That wouldn't have happened without Ninny so it was almost a draw.
Ninny was a fountain of words with a heart of love. Linda read one of her favorite passages from Ninny: "Now you ask me the year somebody got married, who they married, or what the bride's mother wore, and nine times out of ten I can tell you, but for the life of me, I cain't tell you when it was I got to be so old." This is typical bemused Ninny. She later told Evelyn that she was living on memories, yet there was nothing pathetic or particularly sad in this for her.
We felt that the small size and isolation of the town made room for Flagg's constructs: Idgie and Ruth - they could be openly accepted and embraced, though we were a little disappointed that Flagg hadn't developed Ruth more. We talked about race relations between Whites and Blacks in Whistle Stop and Birmingham. The high value of light skin was a player throughout the book, beginning with the twins and ending up with them not recognizing each other, because their color had sent them on such disparate paths.
We loved Dot Weems and her Weems Weekly - funny stuff - from the saga of Boots the cat (I hope you're satisfied) to the playful jabs at her other half. We thought Flagg very clever to show us their tender relationship though those short weekly installments.
We loved the conflicted relationship between Idgie and Sheriff Grady. He told her she couldn't feed the Blacks, then duty done, helped her masquerade as Railroad Bill by telling her the train schedules. The Dill Pickle Club was quirky - a liars' poker club. Many of the group had lived in the South and vouched for the big role of Tall Tales in Southern culture.
We thought it interesting that the Depression seemed to affect Whistle Stop so little and was a very slight part of the story, though were it not for the Depression, there would have been no famous barbecue and thus no secret for Artis to keep. Sandra read a passage describing how Sipsey buried the heads of all the animals she was going to cook because she said otherwise, their spirits would enter her. She wondered if Sipsey saw Frank as an animal.
We concluded by asking those who had seen the movie to tell us it how it compared with the book. We all laughed as they recalled the scene where Evelyn repeatedly rams the VW bug and says, "I'm older and have more insurance than you." Even though it was only two pages in the book, it apparently got promoted in the movie.
We concluded by collecting more suggested titles for next years reading. We are trying to think of some classics that we haven't already read too many times - put on your thinking caps.
Our final order of business was to elect a new time for future meetings. We will continue to meet the second Tuesday of each month, but with the library's new Tuesday hours of 12:00-8:00, we opted to meet at 1:00. It will be after lunch, so we can go for dessert and coffee if we'd like. Also, people won't have to stand outside, waiting for the building to open in unpleasant weather.
The dialogue was animated and I thank all of your for your contributions. I loved this book and came away with an even greater appreciation after the discussion. I wish I could remember more and hope you'll contribute your thoughts in the Comments section of the blog.