By REBECCA KOLIMAGA
Whistle Stop, Alabama is the home of the Threadgoode’s. The Threadgoode family is full of believable, soulful characters that face triumph, sorrow and adversity. Imogene “Idgie” Threadgoode is the main character of Fannie Flagg’s “Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Café” and her charisma stays with you. Idgie is known for her spunky and risky personality, but it’s that personality that drives this story forward. A review of this novel reveals a heartfelt, well-thought out plot filled with dynamic and riveting characters.
Evelyn Couch is a housewife who is unsatisfied with her life and her weight. When she visits Rose Terrace Nursing Home with her husband, Ed, to visit her mother-in-law on December 15, 1985, Evelyn does not expect to meet Mrs. Cleo Threadgoode. Evelyn, exiled by her disapproving mother-in-law, sits on a couch in the visitor’s lounge, eating candy bars. Upon seeing Evelyn, Mrs. Cleo Threadgoode jumps into a story of her hometown, Whistle Stop and the family that took her in after her parents died.
Her story begins in 1919 when Idgie was about 10. Idgie’s beloved older brother, Buddy, chases his love interest’s hat down the railroad tracks that ran through town, but the carefree laughter abruptly stops when Buddy’s foot gets stuck between the rails and he’s unable to free his foot before the train comes. Idgie’s devastated.
Buddy’s love interest, Ruth Jamison, is sent by Idgie’s mother to befriend Ruth. After apprehensively spending time with Ruth, Idgie eventually begins to enjoy herself. One day, Idgie takes Ruth on a picnic. After they’re settled, Idgie grabs a jar and walks over to a tree that’s buzzing with bees. Idgie walks calmly over to the tree, reaches into it and pulls out pieces of a honeycomb. Ruth was terrified that Idgie would be stung to death, but Idgie wasn’t even stung once. Ruth deemed her “The Bee Charmer.”
Evelyn is enchanted with the stories and becomes more enthralled as Mrs. Cleo Threadgoode continues every time Evelyn comes to the nursing home.
Ruth was only living with the Threadgoodes for the summer and once it was over, Ruth went home to marry Frank Bennett. Idgie, once more, was riddled with heartache and loss, but when she discovered that Frank Bennett was physically abusing Ruth, she and two male friends took her back to Whistle Stop. Although Bennett tried to stop them, the men were able to hold him off. Back at Whistle Stop, Ruth tells them that she’s pregnant.
Idgie and Ruth open The Whistle Stop Café on June 12, 1929. A long-time friend and cook for the Threadgoode family, Sipsey, and eventually her son, Big George, cook for the café. The café experiences threats by the Ku Klux Klan because Ruth and Idgie sell food to African Americans out their backdoor. They never turned anyone away. The homeless would come to their café for a meal and would often sweep or do another small task in exchange for a meal. The café became the center of their town. There was no racism, prejudice or hatred in the café; there was only generosity and laughter.
After more than a year, Bennett comes to Whistle Stop to claim his son, Buddy Threadgoode Jr. At the time, Sipsey was watching the baby and when Frank Bennett tried to kidnap him, Sipsey hit him over the head with a pan and killed him. Her son, Big George, stewed Bennett and served him to the townspeople.
Evelyn, empowered by these stories, begins to take control of her life. One day, when she’s at the supermarket, two young ladies pull into a parking place she was waiting for. When she confronted them, one of them said “Let’s face it, lady, I’m younger and faster than you are.” Evelyn crashed into their car six times and when she was confronted by one of them, she said, “let’s face it, honey, I’m older than you are and have more insurance than you do.”
Evelyn moves and is making friends and healthy decisions for the first time in years. Her life is drastically more positive until she receives a letter from Mrs. Jonnie Hartman, Mrs. Cleo Threadgoode’s neighbor, informing her of her death. Evelyn arrived at Hartman’s house and was given a box of old pictures and recipes. The pictures of the Threadgoode family and their friends, and the recipes, specialties from the café, touched Evelyn’s heart.
All of the tales she was told about Whistle Stop became reality to her. Even though the railway and the café closed and people died or moved away, the triumphant tales of integrity and loyalty still changed Evelyn’s life.
The characters of “Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Café” are easily relatble and endearing. Idgie’s strength, integrity, wisdom and cleverness is inspiring and humorous. Evelyn’s evolution from a depressed house
wife into a confident, unstoppable woman is because of Idgie and Idgie, although fiction, has the ability to transcend the pages and empower others.