The All-Girl Filling Station’s Last Reunion, Fannie Flagg

A book by a female author‘ is hardly a challenge for me – of the seven books I’ve read so far this year, only two have been written by men, but this seems a fitting one because it is so very much about women. It follows, simultaneously, Sookie in Alabama in 2005, and the Jurdabralinski family in Wisconsin in WW2. Sookie has four children and a mother who knows everything and everyone; the Jurdabralinskis have five children, four of whom fly planes for the American military.

The war era sections focus on Fritzi, an ambitious girl who leaves home to join a flying circus, then joins the WASP (Women’s Airforce Service Pilots) programme, ferrying planes for the military. Her descriptions of flying, and the struggles for women doing this in the military, reminded me of Code Name Verity (though this didn’t make me cry nearly so much!), but I didn’t know before reading this that women had flown for the military in the USA. It is exciting and glamourous, and uses letters between family members to excellent effect, which I particularly enjoyed (and which spurred me to send a letter of my own – I always mean to!).

The sections about Sookie, on the other hand, are more gentle and comic. Her mother, Lenore, is a much-loved member of the town community, and takes pride in knowing all the news and all the people, all the time, but Sookie – quiet, eager to please – prefers a softer existence where she can feed her birds in peace. And when she receives some unexpected information, it turns her gentle life upside down.

This was another novel recommended by the same friend who gave me Warpaint (always trust her, always!) – she said it was fun and entertaining and gentle and enjoyable. But what really caught my attention was the cover – I was in Waterstones, leaving the till after buying some of the Penguin Little Black Classics, and it caught my eye. It was only as I picked it up that I remembered Chloe telling me about it, and bought it immediately (the guy on the till looked at me like I was crackers). I’d never read anything by Fannie Flagg, and I look forward to more!

Other categories that The All-Girl Filling Station’s Last Reunion fits into: a funny book, a book by a female author, a mystery or thriller, a book based entirely on its cover, a book set in a different country, a book a friend recommended, a book set somewhere you’ve always wanted to visit, a book based on a true story (ish), a book with a love triangle, a book that made you cry, a book by an author you’ve never read before

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