Written By: Fannie Flagg
Published By: Random House
Reviewed By: Melissa Minners
Sookie Poole has just received a letter that has given us the shock of her life. All these years, Sookie has believed she was the daughter of Southern Belle Lenore Simmons, an over-the-top and often overbearing woman whom Sookie has never believed she could measure up to. But this letter has informed Sookie that she was adopted. Not only is she not Southern, but she is from Wisconsin, born into a Polish family whose name she can barely pronounce. To make matters worse, her birth certificate doesn’t list a father and depicts a birthday that makes Sookie a year older than she always believed she was! Everything Sookie has ever believed about herself has been thrown into question.
She decides to do a little research. Her journey leads her to discover her real mother’s role in American history as a member of an all-girl gas station in Wisconsin and one of the first female pilots to fly American warplanes during World War II. All this time Sookie believed she couldn’t measure up to her adopted mother. How could she ever hold a candle to her real mother? Despite her distress, Sookie continues on her journey and learns quite a bit about herself, her role in her family’s lives, and what being successful in life truly means.
I have always loved reading Fannie Flagg’s novels. Those that I have read are based in the South, contain fascinating characters, touch upon serious historical events, have moments of serious contemplation, but always leave me laughing out loud at some of the more eccentric characters’ antics. The All-Girls Filling Station’s Last Reunion is a terrific example of what a Fannie Flagg novel is all about. Sookie and her mother Lenore are eccentric characters and, while Lenore is larger than life, Sookie can be seen as a bit silly, but loveable. Her reaction to discovering she is adopted in her sixties is hilarious.
Despite the over-the-top antics of some of the characters, this novel is incredibly important as an ode to the WASPs, the Women Airforce Service Pilots who tested and flew fighter planes and bombers all over the United States. Most people know nothing about these brave women, and I applaud Fannie Flagg for sharing their story with her readers. We learn about their plight through flashbacks involving Sookie’s real mother and her family, the gas station their father owned, and their love for flying and the United States that led them to do whatever they could to serve their country during World War II.
The All-Girl Filling Station’s Last Reunion teaches us about important individuals in our country’s history that most of us probably never learned about in school. It teaches us that woman can do whatever they set their mind to do, despite all of the obstacles in their way. More importantly, it fives us a new perspective regarding what the definition of success truly is – that one can be successful without being huge in social circles or well-known all over the world. It’s about your definition of success and what being successful means to you.
I can’t say enough about this book. Fannie Flagg has created loveable characters whom we can’t get enough of. We are completely invested in their story and want to know more. The story itself is so fascinating, I could hardly put the book down. I finished it in record time and was beside myself when it was done, research WASPs to find out more about this piece of history I never knew before. I loved the author’s notes regarding how Fried Green Tomatoes (one of my favorites) eventually led to the creation of The All-Girl Filling Station’s Last Reunion. The actual reunion took place in the Alabama café that the Whistle Stop Café in Fried Green Tomatoes was based on – isn’t that amazing?! All-in-all, I can promise you, if you are a fan of Fannie Flagg’s books, The All-Girl Filling Station’s Last Reunion is definitely a novel you will want to add to your collection. If you have never read a Fannie Flagg novel, this is a great place to start.
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