The All-Girl Filling Station's Last Reunion

Overview

NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • Look for special features inside. Join the Random House Reader’s Circle for author chats and more.

The one and only Fannie Flagg, beloved author of Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe, Can’t Wait to Get to Heaven, and I Still Dream About You, is at her hilarious and superb best in this new comic mystery novel about two women who are forced to reimagine who they are.
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The All-Girl Filling Station's Last Reunion

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Overview

NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • Look for special features inside. Join the Random House Reader’s Circle for author chats and more.

The one and only Fannie Flagg, beloved author of Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe, Can’t Wait to Get to Heaven, and I Still Dream About You, is at her hilarious and superb best in this new comic mystery novel about two women who are forced to reimagine who they are.
 
Mrs. Sookie Poole of Point Clear, Alabama, has just married off the last of her daughters and is looking forward to relaxing and perhaps traveling with her husband, Earle. The only thing left to contend with is her mother, the formidable Lenore Simmons Krackenberry. Lenore may be a lot of fun for other people, but is, for the most part, an overbearing presence for her daughter. Then one day, quite by accident, Sookie discovers a secret about her mother’s past that knocks her for a loop and suddenly calls into question everything she ever thought she knew about herself, her family, and her future.
 
Sookie begins a search for answers that takes her to California, the Midwest, and back in time, to the 1940s, when an irrepressible woman named Fritzi takes on the job of running her family’s filling station. Soon truck drivers are changing their routes to fill up at the All-Girl Filling Station. Then, Fritzi sees an opportunity for an even more groundbreaking adventure. As Sookie learns about the adventures of the girls at the All-Girl Filling Station, she finds herself with new inspiration for her own life.
 
Fabulous, fun-filled, spanning decades and generations, and centered on a little-known aspect of America’s twentieth-century story, The All-Girl Filling Station’s Last Reunion is another irresistible novel by the remarkable Fannie Flagg.
 
Praise for The All-Girl Filling Station’s Last Reunion
 
“A beautifully told tale, world-class humor, and characters who live forever in a grateful reader’s world. Fannie Flagg keeps getting better and better. The All-Girl Filling Station’s Last Reunion proves it.”—Pat Conroy

“If all the self-help books that promote ways to ‘find yourself’ were stacked in an enormous pile . . . none would approach the sweet wisdom with which Flagg infuses The All-Girl Filling Station’s Last Reunion.”Richmond Times-Dispatch

“It’s Flagg’s pleasure to hit her characters with several happy endings, but the real happiness is that she’s given us another lovable—and quirky—novel.”—The Washington Post

“Flagg is at her South-skewering best. . . . A chuckle-while-reading book.”The Mobile Press-Register

“The kind of story that keeps readers turning pages in a fever . . . There are plot twists, adventure, heartbreak, and familial love in spades.”Publishers Weekly
 
“Fannie flies high, and her fans will enjoy the ride. . . . A charming story written with wit and empathy . . . just the right blend of history and fiction.”Kirkus Reviews

“Fannie Flagg is a fantastic storyteller. She surprises the reader in every chapter with unexpected twists and turns. The only problem I had with this fascinating story is that it ended too soon. I can’t wait for her next book.”—Carol Burnett
 
The All-Girl Filling Station’s Last Reunion is an absolute joy to read, full of Fannie Flagg's trademark humor, warmth, tenderness, and heart.”—Kristin Hannah

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“A beautifully told tale, world-class humor, and characters who live forever in a grateful reader’s world. Fannie Flagg keeps getting better and better. The All-Girl Filling Station’s Last Reunion proves it.”—Pat Conroy

“Flagg spins another charming tale of the peaks and valleys of everyday life. . . . If all the self-help books that promote ways to ‘find yourself’ were stacked in an enormous pile . . . none would approach the sweet wisdom with which Flagg infuses The All-Girl Filling Station’s Last Reunion. And neither could they match the author’s essential kindness, nor her unwavering tenderness toward and belief in humanity, despite all its foibles and foolishness. She understands, but she does so with love.”Richmond Times-Dispatch

“It’s Flagg’s pleasure to hit her characters with several happy endings, but the real happiness is that she’s given us another lovable—and quirky—novel.”—The Washington Post

“Flagg is at her South-skewering best. . . . A chuckle-while-reading book.”The Mobile Press-Register

“The kind of story that keeps readers turning pages in a fever . . . There are plot twists, adventure, heartbreak, and familial love in spades.”Publishers Weekly

“Fannie flies high, and her fans will enjoy the ride. . . . A charming story written with wit and empathy . . . just the right blend of history and fiction.”Kirkus Reviews

“Flagg’s storytelling talent is on full display. Her trademark quirky characters are warm and realistic, and the narrative switches easily between the present and the past. Flagg’s fans won’t be disappointed in this one, and there’s a lot to be said for giving tribute to the real-life WASPs. . . . Great possibilities for nonfiction pairings abound for book clubs.”Booklist

“Yet again, Flagg delivers a book full of heartwarming charm that is sure to provoke lighthearted laughter. A complex story told simply and honestly . . . another treat for Flagg fans.”Library Journal

“Fannie Flagg is a fantastic storyteller. She surprises the reader in every chapter with unexpected twists and turns. The only problem I had with this fascinating story is that it ended too soon. I can’t wait for her next book.”—Carol Burnett
 
The All-Girl Filling Station’s Last Reunion is an absolute joy to read, full of Fannie Flagg's trademark humor, warmth, tenderness, and heart. If you’re looking for a novel to lift your spirits and make you smile, this is definitely the book for you.”—Kristin Hannah
 
“An engaging, heartfelt story where family secrets unfurl and the past reshapes the present in surprising ways. Fannie Flagg has crafted a love letter to the courageous women who accomplished the extraordinary on the homefront during World War II.”—Beth Hoffman
 
“Sly and funny, and a delight from beginning to end. Reading Fannie Flagg is like sitting on the porch and listening to a master storyteller, until night falls and the tale is finally told, then not wanting to move a muscle because the story is still resonating in the quiet around you.”—Sarah Addison Allen
 
The All-Girl Filling Station’s Last Reunion has all of the ingredients we hope to find in a Fannie Flagg novel. With its unforgettable characters, wildly hilarious scenes, and deeply touching moments, this novel is loaded with delights.”—Edward Kelsey Moore

“There is no novelist better at exploring the sunny side of the American soul than Fannie Flagg. Her books cast a marvelous spell—one minute I’m laughing, the next minute a lump in my throat, and then a sad smile with a rush of deep feeling. The All-Girl Filling Station’s Last Reunion is charming, funny, and deeply satisfying.”—Mark Childress, author of Crazy in Alabama and Georgia Bottom

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780812977172
  • Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 7/29/2014
  • Pages: 384
  • Sales rank: 619
  • Product dimensions: 5.10 (w) x 7.90 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

Fannie Flagg’s career started in the fifth grade when she wrote, directed, and starred in her first play, titled The Whoopee Girls, and she has not stopped since. At age nineteen she began writing and producing television specials, and later wrote for and appeared on Candid Camera. She then went on to distinguish herself as an actress and a writer in television, films, and the theater. She is the bestselling author of Daisy Fay and the Miracle Man; Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe; Welcome to the World, Baby Girl!; Standing in the Rainbow; A Redbird Christmas; Can’t Wait to Get to Heaven; I Still Dream About You; and The All-Girl Filling Station’s Last Reunion. Flagg’s script for the movie Fried Green Tomatoes was nominated for an Academy Award and the Writers Guild of America Award and won the highly regarded Scripter Award for best screenplay of the year. Flagg is the winner of the Harper Lee Prize. Flagg lives happily in California and Alabama.

Biography

Quite early on in her writing career, Fannie Flagg stumbled onto the holy grail of secrets in the publishing world: what editors are actually good for.

Attending the Santa Barbara Writer's Conference in 1978 to see her idol, Eudora Welty, Flagg won first prize in the writing contest for a short story told from the perspective of a 11-year-old girl, spelling mistakes and all -- a literary device that she figured was ingenious because it disguised her own pitiful spelling, later determined to be an outgrowth of dyslexia. But when a Harper & Row editor approached her about expanding the story into a full-length novel, she realized the jig was up.

"I just burst into tears and said, 'I can't write a novel,'" she told The New York Times in 1994. "'I can't spell. I can't diagram a sentence.' He took my hand and said the most wonderful thing I've ever heard. He said, 'Oh, honey, what do you think editors are for?'"

And so Fannie Flagg -- television personality, Broadway star, film actress and six-time Miss Alabama contestant -- became a novelist, delving into the Southern-fried, small-town fiction of the sort populated by colorful characters with homespun, no-nonsense observations. Characters that are known to say things like, "That catfish was so big the photograph alone weighed 40 pounds."

Her first novel, an expanded take on that prize-winning short story, was Coming Attractions: A Wonderful Novel, the story of a spunky yet hapless girl growing up in the South, helping her alcoholic father run the local bijou. But it was with her second novel where it all came together. Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Café -- a novel, for all its light humor, that infuses its story with serious threads on racism, feminism, spousal abuse and hints at Sapphic love -- follows two pairs of women: a couple running a hometown café in the Depression-era South and an elderly nursing home resident in the late 1980s who strikes up an impromptu friendship with a middle-aged housewife unhappy with her life.

The result was not only a smash novel, but a hit movie as well, one that garnered Flagg an Academy Award nomination for adapting the screenplay. She won praise from the likes of Erma Bombeck, Harper Lee and idol Eudora Welty, and the Los Angeles Times critic compared it to The Last Picture Show. The The New York Times called it, simply, "a real novel and a good one."

Before her career as a novelist, Flagg was known principally for her on-screen television and film work. She was second banana to Allen Funt on the long-running Candid Camera, perhaps the trailblazer for the current crop of so-called reality television. (Her favorite segment, she told Entertainment Weekly in 1992, was driving a car through the wall of a drive-thru bank.) She appeared as the school nurse in the 1978 film version of Grease, and on Broadway in The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas. And she was a staple of the Match Game television game shows in the '70s.

As a writer, though, this Birmingham, Alabama native found her voice as a chronicler of Southern Americana and life in its self-contained hamlets. "Fannie Flagg is the most shamelessly sentimental writer in America," The Christian Science Monitor wrote in a 1998 review of her third novel. "She's also the most entertaining. You'd have to be a stone to read Welcome to the World, Baby Girl! without laughing and crying. The cliches in this novel are deep-fat fried: not particularly nutritious, but entirely delicious."

The New York Times, also reviewing Baby Girl, took note of the spinning-yarns-on-the-front-porch quality to her work: "Even when she prattles -- and she prattles a great deal during this book -- you are always aware that a star is at work. She has that gift that certain people from the theater have, of never boring the audience. She keeps it simple, she keeps it bright, she keeps it moving right along -- and, most of all, she keeps it beloved."

But, lest she be pegged as simply a champion of the good ol’ days, it's worth noting that her writing can be something of a clarion call for social change. In Fried Green Tomatoes, Flagg comments not only on the racial divisions of the South but also on the minimization of women in both the 1930s and contemporary life. Just as Idgie Threadgoode and Ruth Jamison commit to a life together -- without menfolk -- in the Depression-era days of Whistle Stop, Alabama, middle-aged Evelyn Couch in modern-day Birmingham discovers the joys of working outside the home and defining her life outside meeting the every whim of her husband.

On top of her writing, Flagg has also stumped for the Equal Rights Amendment.

"I think it's time that women have to stand up and say we do not want to be seen in a demeaning manner," Flagg told a Premiere magazine reporter in an interview about the film adaptation of Fried Green Tomatoes.

Good To Know

Flagg approximated the length of her first novel by weight. Her editor told her a novel should be around 400 pages. "So I weighed 400 pages and it came to two pounds and something," she told the Los Angeles Times in 1987. " I wrote until I had two pounds and something, and, as it happened, the novel was just about done."

She landed the Candid Camera gig while a writer at a New York comedy club. When one of the performers couldn't go on, Flagg acted as understudy, and the show's host, Allen Funt, was in the audience.

Flagg went undiagnosed for years as a dyslexic until a viewer casually mentioned it to her in a fan letter.

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Reading Group Guide

1. A lot of Southern identity is wrapped up in one’s family history. “Now, just who are your people?” is an oft-quoted phrase around the region. Sookie’s biggest crisis comes when she realizes that her “people” aren’t actually who she thought they were. How does Sookie’s discovery of her true family affect her identity? How does your own heritage affect your identity?

2. Though Sookie tells us that Lenore’s nickname, “Winged Victory,” came from the way she entered a room—as if she were the statuesque piece on the hood of a car rushing in—how might “Winged Victory” reflect Lenore’s personality in other ways? Does her representation as a classical goddess serve to heighten the air of history and tradition that surrounds her? How might the image of a winged woman tie Lenore in with the ladies of the WASPs?

3. Though Sookie tells us that Lenore’s nickname, “Winged Victory,” came from the way she entered a room—as if she were the statuesque piece on the hood of a car rushing in—how might “Winged Victory” reflect Lenore’s personality in other ways? Does her representation as a classical goddess serve to heighten the air of history and tradition that surrounds her? How might the image of a winged woman tie Lenore in with the ladies of the WASPs?

4. Sookie’s best friend, Marvaleen, is constantly trying different suggestions from her life coach, Edna Yorba Zorbra. From journaling to yoga to the Goddess Within group, which meets in a yurt, Marvaleen tries every method possible to get over her divorce. How does Sookie’s approach to dealing with her problems differ from Marvaleen’s? Do you think her friendship with Marvaleen might have helped push her to confront the question of her mother?

5. In The All-Girl Filling Station’s Last Reunion, we learn about a mostly unknown part of American history—the WASPs of World War II. These women went for thirty-five years without recognition because their records of service were sealed and classified. Were you surprised to learn about this? What parts of the WASPs’ story spoke to you?

6. As Sookie comes to terms with her new identity, so must the rest of her family. Sookie’s realization that “Dee Dee may not be a Simmons by birth, but she was certainly Lenore’s granddaughter, all right” becomes a comforting thought. Have there been times in your life when you have felt so connected to people that you considered them family? What types of circumstances can create such a bond?

7. Sookie tells her friend one day, “I’m telling you, Dena, when you live long enough to see your children begin to look at you with different eyes, and you can look at them not as your children, but as people, it’s worth getting older with all the creaks and wrinkles.” Have you experienced this change yet with your own parents or children? If so, what were the circumstances in which you began to see them in a different light? How did this make your relationship even more special?

8. “Blue Jay Away,” Sookie’s brand-new invention, keeps Sookie’s house finches and chickadees fed, while also making Sookie famous. Who do you think have been the blue jays in Sookie’s own life? Has she learned to manage them successfully?

9. As Pat Conroy says, Fannie Flagg can make even the Polish seem Southern. A large part of Southern and Polish identity is found in their culture—the food, the music, the values. What are some of the things that are unique to your culture? How do they help bring people together?

10. Throughout the book, Dee Dee and Lenore often represent many characteristics that Sookie finds frustrating about being a Simmons, such as the time Dee Dee had to be driven to the church in the back of a moving van so that her Gone with the Wind wedding dress wouldn’t be messed up. Once Sookie gains perspective on her family, however, she comes to love and accept Dee Dee’s obsession with their history. Have there been times when your own friends or family have frustrated you with their opinions? How were you able to gain perspective and accept their differences?

11. A major theme in this book is accepting your home. Sookie experiences a homecoming many times—after she first meets Fritzi and returns to Point Clear, when she goes to Lenore’s bedside at Westminster Village, and when she flies to Pulaski for the All-Girl Filling Station’s last reunion. What is your favorite part about going home? Who are the people who make home a home for you?

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