cover image The All-Girl Filling Station's Last Reunion

The All-Girl Filling Station's Last Reunion

Fannie Flagg . Random House, $27 (349p) ISBN 978-1-4000-6594-3

Structured much like Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe, Flagg's latest novel alternates between the pedestrian life of Sookie Poole, a timid middle-aged southern woman and that of her brash, adventurous ancestry, a quartet of polish sisters who ran a filling station and flew planes during WWII. The cataclysmic event that unites these narratives is Sookie's discovery that she was adopted. Her journey into the history of her biological family is excruciatingly slow, but the history%E2%80%94particularly of the WASPs, a division of all-female pilots who flew support missions for the Air Force and were written promptly out of history after the war ended proves more entertaining and helps redeem the plot. The language is accessible and much of the backstory is delivered via letters, rendering the voices of the characters authentic, even if they are a bit stock%E2%80%94the archetypal aging southern lady heroine, for example, has a wacky new-age best friend, an overbearing mother, and a Yankee psychiatrist. Readers looking for nuance will not find it here, but there are plot twists, adventure, heartbreak, and familial love in spades, making this the kind of story that keeps readers turning pages in a fever. (Nov.)