I Still Dream of You
By Fannie Flagg
By BILL DUNCAN
No matter what Fannie Flagg writes, she is always going to be judged by her blockbuster novel, “Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Café.” Oddly, that was her second book, the first being “Daisy Fay and the Miracle Man.” Since that time she was continued to write whimsical tales, mostly about eccentric Southern women.
After the phenomenal success of “Fried Green Tomatoes,” she said in a recent interview that she had the sinking feeling that she would become another Harper Lee whose only book was the blockbuster, “To Kill a Mockingbird.” However, fortunately for the reader Flagg did not stop writing.
Now comes, “I Still Dream About You,” a novel set in Flagg’s hometown, Birmingham, Ala. where 60-year-old former Miss Alabama, Maggie Fortenberry, the successful owner of Red Mountain Realty has chosen Oct. 17, 2008 to end her career – and her life. She feels she can no longer compete in the down trend of the real estate market, but in truth she is depressed over the death of her mentor and colleague, Hazel Whisenknott, a three foot, four inch, giant in the real estate industry who gave Maggie first start.
The book opens as Maggie has chosen that particular day to close the book on her life, but in Southern genteel manner she is formally writing by hand, her farewell note to her clients, colleagues and friends. She is about to put the finishing touches on the note when her cell phone rings and she impulsively answers.
It is a call from her flamboyant business partner, Brenda Peoples, a compulsive overeater, who has ambitions of becoming the city’s first black female mayor. Brenda doesn’t wait for any introductions and excitingly tells Maggie that the Whirling Dervishes are coming to Birmingham and insists Maggie must be seen at this once in a lifetime event. Maggie struggles to get out of any such commitment, but Brenda will not hear of it and says: “I don’t care what you say, you are going.”
That tossed out Maggie’s plans, but it only meant she had to face Babs Bingington, her real estate nemesis in Birmingham who is considered Babs the Beast in Maggie’s office. She is a Yankee come South and herput on Southern accent is particularly grating to Maggie and her colleagues.
From this point the book moves rapidly and includes saucy dialog from Ethel Clipp, the office’s grumpy, purple-haired octogenarian and other typical Flagg character inventions. Flagg pulls out all the stops on this novel including finding skeletons in Southern closets, so it becomes a comedy mixed with mystery.
It begins as a depressing book, but ends with things getting better and better for Maggie, but not so much for Ethel who at 93 is published in the “Guinness Book of World Records” as the oldest living working real estate agent. She hadn’t wanted anyone to know how old she was. In the end, however, it is Ethel who settles the score with that Yankee Babs.
Flagg began writing and producing television specials at age 19 and was a star in television, films and theater. She still maintains a home in Birmingham as well as a home in California. Nothing Fannie Flagg writes will ever quite measure up to “Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Café,” but I would rate “I Still Dream About You,” high on the list of her books.
(Bill Duncan can be reached at email@example.com or by writing to P.O. Box 812, Roseburg, OR 97470.)