The All-Girl Filling Station’s Last Reunion
by Fannie Flagg
Random House, 2013

Reviewed by Linda Davis

     Anyone who watched TV game shows in the 1970s and ’80s probably saw Fannie Flagg. She frequently appeared on Match Game and Hollywood Squares, among others. She is known for her Southern style of speaking and her quick wit. However, you may not be aware that she is the author of eight novels full of Southern characters and Laugh Out Loud (LOL) wit. The popular movie, Fried Green Tomatoes, was based on one of her earlier books. The All-Girl Filling Station’s Last Reunion combines those traits plus a story line that connects Southern aristocracy, female pilots in World War II, Albuquerque, and adoption.
     In this book Sookie’s mother, eighty-year-old Lenore Krackenberry, still tries her best to train her strong-willed daughter to carry on all of the traditions of her well-to-do southern ancestors. At age 59, Sookie still says, “I’m sorry, mother,” frequently. She realizes that no matter how hard she tries to please her perfectionist mother she can never reach that elusive goal.
     On one seemingly ordinary day Sarah Jane “Sookie” Krackenberry Poole, who handles all of her mother’s bills, is notified by phone that she will have to sign for a registered letter addressed to Lenore. After Sookie asks about the nature of the letter, the caller tells her cryptically, “ are not who you think you are.” With these words Sookie’s life begins to take on an entirely new dimension. Once she overcomes the shock of not being Southern aristocracy by blood, she is eager to learn about the Polish customs, music, and recipes of her birth mother’s family. As Sookie initiates contact with her birth mother’s family, she is emboldened to try their Polish food, customs, and music. As she gradually breaks out of Lenore’s mold she learns to delight in being herself. She even travels.
     Sookie learns that her birth mother had been a “wing walker” in air shows who eventually became a pilot. After some years she had been chosen as one of the 1,074 women during World War II who flew military aircraft in the USA. This helped the war effort by freeing male pilots for service in the war zones overseas.
     One chapter is entitled “Albuquerque, New Mexico.” It tells about Sookie’s attendance at an actual air show that was held in Albuquerque approximately 13 years ago. It featured a huge B-17 airplane that had been flown by WASPs from the factory to its airbase. (I attended that air show at KAFB and walked through the B-17.) Several male pilots had refused to fly it because the size was daunting. It seemed to be too big to handle safely. The fact that women had accomplished the task had not been widely known for decades after the war. Fannie’s portrayal of the thoughts and emotions of Sookie and her birth family leads me to conclude that she has experienced some aspect of the adoption triangle or had at least been in very close contact with someone who experienced reunion. She has portrayed all sides of the triangle with warmth, respect, sympathy, and humor. I highly recommend this delightful book.

Excerpted from the November 2016 edition of the Operation Identitiy Newsletter
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