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Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe is a 1987 novel by American author and actress Fanny Flagg. The narrative contains two interconnected stories that unfold several decades apart. The frame narrative, which takes place in Birmingham, Alabama between December 1985 and December 1986, depicts the developing friendship between a middle-aged housewife named Evelyn Couch and an elderly widow named Ninny Threadgoode. As the story opens, Evelyn is suffering from what she will later recognize as depression and anxiety. Although her life superficially resembles the American ideal, Evelyn is deeply unhappy with how it has turned out. She says: “I just feel stuck…stuck right in the middle….Women’s lib came too late for me…I was already married with two children when I found out that I didn’t have to get married..and now it’s too late to change…”

Evelyn’s life changes when she meets Ninny Threadgoode, who is a talkative and opinionated woman. Mrs. Threadgoode talks about her experiences of sex, marriage, and children with Evelyn while boosting her self-esteem. Evelyn gains more confidence but sometimes has angry outbursts; for instance, when a teenage girl pulls into the parking space that she had been waiting for, Evelyn crashes her car repeatedly into the girl’s vehicle.

After the death of her friend, Evelyn is upset and angry. She feels sad for a long time but eventually finds joy in life again by becoming a successful Mary Kay distributor and going to weight loss camp. Afterward, she returns to visit Mrs. Threadgoode’s grave where she thanks her for helping her find new happiness in life.

The novel presents two narratives. The first one is about the present, in which Evelyn and Mrs. Threadgoode are discussing her past, specifically her hometown of Whistle Stop, Alabama. This narrative also includes flashbacks to the 1930s when Ruth Jamison and Idgie Threadgoode owned a diner together in Whistle Stop, Alabama.

Idgie Threadgoode is a tomboy and doesn’t like to be around people. She’s also very free spirited and rebellious. Her brother Buddy dies when she is young, but it isn’t until many years later that she finally recovers from her grief. Then Idgie falls in love with Ruth Jamison, who returns those feelings but feels obligated to go back home because of an engagement ring on her finger. So Idgie helps Ruth escape Frank Bennett and they open up a cafe together in Whistle Stop where they live happily ever after.

From 1929 on, Idgie and Ruth run the Whistle Stop Cafe. It serves people who other establishments won’t– out-of-work drifters and the black population of neighboring Troutville. The two women face many challenges over the years: In 1930, Frank travels to Whistle Stop to forcefully retrieve Ruth, and then suddenly disappears; in 1955, his car is found there; Idgie stands trial for his murder but her community provides an alibi that she’s innocent.

In 1936, Ruth’s son had an accident and lost his arm. In the 1950s, Idgie had to close down her café because of a railway strike. However, she was still doing well in the 1980s by running a roadside stand with her brother Julian.

The novel is made up of two major storylines. The first involves Idgie Threadgoode and Ruth Jamison, who were close friends in high school and grew apart after Ruth married Buddy. The second storyline follows the lives of many people in Whistle Stop, including their black cook Sipsey Peavey. She was a nanny for the Threadgoodes’ children when they were younger and eventually adopted her own child, George Pullman Peavey Jr., nicknamed Big George or Baby Boy (although he’s not really a baby). He worked at the Whistle Stop Cafe as a barbecue chef with his wife Onzell; together they had four sons: Jasper (who marries into the black middle-class), Artis (who leads an unsuccessful life of womanizing, heavy spending, and occasional violence), Willis Junior (nicknamed Buddy), and Robert Earl (nicknamed Buck). Finally, we learn that it was actually Sipsey who killed Frank Bennett instead of Idgie because she thought he tried to rape Ruth one night when she came home late from work.

Fried Green Tomatoes At The Whistle Stop Cafe Book Summary, by Fannie Flagg