The All-Girl Filling Station’s Last Reunion, by Fannie Flagg, was published in 2013.
I downloaded the eBook from The Seattle Public Library. It was the first book I have ever read on my phone. It was also the first book by Fannie Flagg I have ever read (although I’ve actually eaten fried green tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe).
It’s 2005, in Point Clear, Alabama. Mrs. Earle Poole, Jr., known to her friends as Sookie, has three married daughters, Dee Dee, Cee Cee, and Le Le. Her only son, Carter, aged 25, remains unmarried.
The story starts right after Cee Cee’s pet-friendly wedding. Sookie is adjusting to life in an empty nest, trying to get rid of the blue jays in her yard, and trying to figure out what to do about her mother, Lenore, who, depending on who you ask, is either “eccentric” or “batty as hell”.
One morning, Pete, the mailman, arrives with a registered letter for Mrs. Earle Poole, Jr. The letter is from the Texas Board of Health
At the age of 59, Sookie is about to discover that she’s not who she thought she was.
It’s 1916. Stanislaw Ludic Jurdabralinski, an immigrant from Poland, arrives in Pulaski, Wisconsin. He finds work with the railroad, and when the railroad leaves town, he finds other work in Pulaski. He marries a woman named Linka Marie. He becomes a US citizen. Stanislaw and Linka have a baby girl, named Fritzi Willinka Jurdabralinski. Then they have a boy, named Wencent Stanislaw Zdislaw Jurdabralinsli. Then they have twin girls, Gertrude May (born May 31) and Tula June (born June 1). Then they have a girl, named Sophie Marie.
In 2005, in Point Clear, Sookie is trying to come to grips with the idea that she is not a Simmons; she is a Jurdabralinski. Worse, she was born a Catholic, according to the records.
Days go by as Sookie thinks back on her life and wonders how she could have not known that she was adopted.
Decades go by as Stanislaw saves enough to buy a Phillips 66 filling station, which survives the great depression. His son takes over the management, and it becomes known as Wink’s Phillips 66. As American women begin driving more, Wink’s Phillips 66 thrives, thanks to its clean restrooms and the handsomeness of its manager.
In 1938, Fritzi, the eldest daughter, the defiant one, the troublemaker, begins dating a barnstorming pilot named Billy Bevins. Fritzi’s mother is not surprised. Fritzi falls in love with Billy, and with flying, after one night on the town.
In 2005, Sookie finds a psychiatrist who is willing to meet with her at The Waffle House.
In 1939, the Polish community of Pulaski sees newsreels of Poland being invaded. In 1941, they hear the news that America has entered World War II. Billy and Wink join the US Army Air Corps. Fritzi is sore that, although England and Russia accept female pilots, America does not.
Papa becomes too ill to work, and with Wink off to war, Fritzi, Gertrude, Tula, and Sophie run the filling station.
Wink’s Phillips 66, the all-girl filling station, is just the beginning of the story.
Earlier in the Reading Challenge, I read a book named Candyland. It was written by one author pretending to be two authors, supposedly in two radically different styles. I was disappointed in it, because the two styles were not as radically different as advertised. The All-Girl Filling Station’s Last Reunion is what Candyland should have been. Although Fannie Flagg doesn’t pretend to be two authors, this book’s two alternating stories are radically different, and it works.
Point Clear, Alabama is shown from a single point of view (mostly). It’s silly and hilarious. It focuses on hour-by-hour events.
Pulaski, Wisconsin is more serious in tone, but not without its funny moments. It flows through a generation of immigrants. It’s a brief history of twentieth-century America, and how war changed the nature of its workforce. It’s about the short, sad history of the WASPs, and their uncredited service to their country.
Of course, these two timelines converge into one – in a way I wasn’t expecting.
This book was wonderful and amazing. I loved it. I loved it a lot.
- A book set in two different time periods