I seldom cry over books, but the last fifty pages or so of Fannie Flagg’s The All-Girl Filling Station’s Last Reunion had me tearing up repeatedly. Don’t let that discourage you—this is a wonderful book. I bought it more or less by accident, looking for one more book to satisfy a free shipping or a “buy two get one free” offer from a book club. I had read two of Flagg’s earlier novels, years ago, and this one looked interesting, so I added it to my order—I’m so glad I did.
The All-Girl Filling Station’s Last Reunion tells the stories of two very different women, in two very different time periods. I won’t tell you just how they are connected—that’s one of many surprises in the book—but they are. Sookie Poole (the former Sarah Jane Krackenberry, better known as Mrs. Earle Poole, Jr.) is a sixtyish wife and mother living in Clear Point, Alabama, blessed with a happy marriage and four grown children, and perhaps not so blessed with a totally self-centered eighty-eight-year-old mother, the formidable Lenore Simmons Krackenberry, also known (especially to Sookie and her brother Buck) as Winged Victory.
Sookie’s biggest worry, now that her last daughter’s wedding is over, is feeding the small songbirds in her yard in the face of an invasion of voracious blue jays. That is, until she receives some unexpected information that makes her question everything about her life.
The surprising news about her family’s history leads Sookie to the story of Fritzi Jurdabralinski of Pulaski, Wisconsin, a restless young woman who becomes first an auto mechanic and then a pilot, eventually joining the WASPs and ferrying war planes from factories to bases during WWII.
Flagg’s portrait of Sookie, her family, and her community is both hilarious and touching, and Fritzi’s journey from a filling station in a small Wisconsin town through Billy Bevins’ Flying Circus to WASP duty in Texas and California is fascinating. The book is filled with wonderful characters dealing with joys, sorrows and dilemmas that readers will recognize and share.
I loved this book. I’d forgotten how much I enjoy Fannie Flagg’s writing. I may have to pull Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Café off my bookshelf, and track down the ones I’ve missed.