Book Review: The Wonder Boy of Whistle Stop by Fannie Flagg

  While not a sequel in the traditional sense, The Wonder Boy of Whistle Stop  overlaps with some of the events of Fried Green Tomatoes...


While not a sequel in the traditional sense, The Wonder Boy of Whistle Stop overlaps with some of the events of Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe as the book is a continuation of the Threadgoode legacy. Whereas Idgie is really the main focus of Fried Green Tomatoes, Buddy is the main focus of Wonder Boy. Like Fried Green Tomatoes, Wonder Boy also allows you to experience not just one person's story, but many. Buddy is the "Wonder Boy," but in reading this book, you also get to know his children and grandchildren. You get to revisit Whistle Stop when it's still a bustlin' ol' railroad town, but see it again in its demise. You get a small taste of things missed during those in-between periods in Fried Green Tomatoes, and an even bigger taste of what happened to many of the characters after the tale of Ruth and Idgie. Hell, you even get Weems Weekly still. 

I loved Fried Green Tomatoes (the book and movie) for the big lesbianisms of it all, but I really hated the racism and the things that really didn't age well after the 80s. Wonder Boy brought back the nostalgia and sentiment of the first story but without the problematic pieces. 

"That's what you get when you love something that much. Joy and heartbreak." - The Wonder Boy of Whistle Stop, Fannie Flagg

Honestly, this book was really fantastic, but I'm not sure if it would mean as much to someone who hasn't read the first one; and I mean actually reading/listening to the book, not watching the movie. The movie is incredible and I love it as its own separate entity, but the book gives a lot more (like usual). I think to truly enjoy The Wonder Boy of Whistle Stop, you would want to have experienced the first. I do think that Wonder Boy could effectively be a stand-alone and be a solid story, but the reader would just be missing the nostalgic and sentimental pieces from Fried Green Tomatoes. They go hand-in-hand, and without the first, the second would just be lacking.

I think one of the best pieces of this new story is that connection to the original. This isn't some disconnected story that has a similar setting in the same universe but all new characters. The appeal of these stories are those connections. The characters of Whistle Stop are not just entertaining. They're characters that you really care about, even when you can't condone their actions. They're basically small-town family for the reader, which is kind of a trait of southern lit. You read these books for the connection, not for the misadventures (though those are certainly fun). 

Fannie Flagg did something really special with these books. It can't be easy to leave a gap of over 30 years between two stories, then just pick right back up like there was not a pause whatsoever. But I guess that's kind of what happens between friends - you can go years without seeing each other or talking, and then just pick back up like you'd never even been apart.

Goodreads rating: ★★★★★

*Thanks to Netgalley for the digital review copy of this book. All opinions are entirely my own.

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