"The Wonder Boy of Whistle Stop" | Reviewed by Pat Sainz.
Updated: Mar 8, 2021
Fiction writer Fannie Flagg gained worldwide acclaim with the publication of her beloved book “Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe.” She also was the scriptwriter for the award-nominated movie “Fried Green Tomatoes” which was based on her book and is now considered to be a classic film by movie critics.
Flagg revisits the setting of Whistle Stop, Alabama, and its memorable characters with “The Wonder Boy of Whistle Stop.”
The novel brings closure to the stories of Buddy, biological son of Ruth Ligget and adopted by Idgie Threadgood; Grady Kilgore, sheriff and rescuer of Idgie's rescuer from her many escapades; Big George, son of Sipsey, the cook of the Whistle Stop cafe, and many other characters familiar to fans of the “Fried Green Tomatoes” narratives.
Whistle Stop, Alabama, ceased to exist mid century when new highways took traffic and accessibility to its shops away from the town. Trains bypassed the picturesque settlement as residents were slowly forced to leave for other jobs. Schools closed.
Idgie Threadgood, the star of Flagg’s original book, moved to Florida to be near her brother following Ruth’s death and Buddy’s departure for college at Georgia Tech.
Ruthie Threadgood, daughter of Buddy and Peggy Threadgood, is the character on whom the current story is based. Ruthie’s life changes drastically, as do the lives of loved ones in Ruthie’s life, when she meets Evelyn Couch.
Evelyn’s own life took a major turn when she met Ninny Threadgood, Buddy’s aunt by marriage, in a nursing home in Birmingham. Evelyn, as fans of Flagg’s book will remember, became a top-selling Mary Kay saleswoman after her confidence was restored during her interactions with Ninny.
Now Evelyn is the wealthiest citizen of Birmingham. She has garnered statewide recognition for her purchases of car dealerships, land and her philanthropic nature. Ed, her sweet but unromantic husband died, leaving her with time and energy to build her empire.
Ruthie’s funny and loving father, who lost part of his arm as a child after a train accident in Whistle Stop, has had a very successful career as a veterinarian. When his wife dies, he moves into a nursing home to be close to Ruthie, who has married a wealthy scion of Atlanta.
Ruthie’s personal goals were put on hold to support her husband’s career in the family business. She lives in a huge house, never to her liking, next door to her oppressive mother-in-law. When Ruthie’s husband dies and her children move away, she feels rootless. She loves looking after her father, but it isn’t as fulfilling as she wishes.
Buddy’s dream, even as he approaches his 90s, is to return to Whistle Stop and revisit the town that he loved. When he manages to do just that, in spite of the nursing home’s restrictions, coincidences conspire to bring Evelyn together with Ruthie. Both their lives are changed forever, as is Buddy’s.
Flagg has managed once again to write about unforgettable characters whose touching life experiences will resonate with readers. The stories of Whistle Stop and its former townspeople are tenderly woven together through letters sent to friends scattered far and wide by Dot Weems, former beauty shop operator in Whistle Stop, through anecdotes revealing new compelling stories of Idgie and Ruth, and through chapters with alternating time periods from 1935 to the present.
“The Wonder Boy of Whistle Stop Cafe” is an irresistible tale of universal truths, hope, and essential yearnings for love told through the characters beloved by fans of the Fried Green Tomatoes saga. Readers will thoroughly enjoy this lovely, humorous novel. We can all benefit from an adventurous, uplifting journey back to Whistle Stop, Alabama.