It’s first the story of two women in the 1980s, of gray-headed Mrs. Threadgoode telling her life story to Evelyn, who is in the sad slump of middle age. The tale she tells is also of two women — of the irrepressibly daredevilish tomboy Idgie and her friend Ruth, who back in the thirties ran a little place in Whistle Stop, Alabama, a Southern kind of Cafe Wobegon offering good barbecue and good coffee and all kinds of love and laughter, even an occasional murder.
Brilliant. Seriously, I was not expecting to enjoy a tale about an old lady in a nursing home so much, but it kept popping up in my goodreads recommendations, so when I saw a copy in a second-hand book store, I bought it. And I’m so glad I did!
Okay, so maybe my first line was a bit misleading, because while the story is told by our elderly narrator, she is actually recounting her life, and the lives of those around her, in a little town called Whistle Stop back in the 1930s. In particular, the tale focuses on our MC’s sister in law, Idgie, and her partner Ruth, as well as the dramatics and everyday trivialities in this small town, where everybody knows everybody else.
During this time, racism was also rife in the US, and is an unfortunate reality of life for those people of colour living in Whistle Stop. However, it’s also delightful to watch certain perpetrators get their comeuppance! I found it quite strange, however, that everyone seemed pretty accepting of Ruth and Idgie’s relationship at the time – the local lesbians were A-okay, but darker skins weren’t?
I also found Evelyn’s story a bit of an afterthought – she is the woman who visits our MC, and listens to her recount the tales of Whistlestop. A very unhappy character, I’m glad that she at least found her freedom and confidence.
While Fried Green Tomatoes has some truly heartbreaking moments, it also contains some deadpan, dry humour that I really appreciated. It’s a book that manages to capture the full range of human emotions and experiences – from loyalty to love, death to despair, and a plethora of wrong actions committed for the right reasons. A simply wonderful read.