Finished August 24
The All-Girl Filling Station's Last Reunion by Fannie Flagg
This is a light, fun novel that also includes some interesting history. The title only refers to a small portion of the book though.
There are two storylines here that the book moves back and forth between, and that gradually come together. The historical story follows the life of Stanislaw Jurdabralinski as he emigrates to the United States from Poland in 1909, and ends up starting a family in Pulaski, Wisconsin. Here he is one of the first owners of a Phillips 66 filling station, begun in 1928, that he and his family take great pride in. They easily get a plaque for their clean washrooms, and Stanislaw's son Wencent (Wink) is a draw for lady drivers.
When the US enters World War II, Wink is off to war, and his sisters take over the running of the station, hence the title. The girls are an adventurous sort and Fritzi, the oldest is particularly risk-loving, signing on with a stunt pilot, Billy Bevins, in the pre-war years. There are four sisters: Fritzi, twins Gertrude May and Tula Jane, and the youngest, Sophie Marie.
As the war continues, the door is opened for women pilots to play a role and Fritzi signs up right off the bat to be a WASP. This portion of the book is particularly interesting as it highlights a portion of history seldom talked about, and shows the reality of the life these women led.
The modern storyline follows Sarah Jane (Sookie) Poole, wife of Earle Poole Jr, who has in 2005 just married off the last of her three daughters. Sookie lives in Point Clear, Alabama and is a very nice, eager to please woman. Her oldest daughter DeeDee has married the same man twice, and Sookie isn't sure that she's made good choices. LeLe and CeCe are twins and CeCe has been the latest to marry, having a unique wedding that involved the couple's pets. Sookie also has a domineering mother, Lenore Simmons Krakenberry, who is always criticizing Sookie and trying to run her life. Sookie's best friend Marvaleen is a woman always eager to try the next new age trend and her neighbour Netta helps Sookie out when called on. Sookie has had a long-standing worry about becoming mentally unstable, based on the experience of her mother's siblings Aunt Lily and Uncle Baby who are now both institutionalized. She is also concerned about the welfare of the small birds that she tries to feed as the blue jays keep chasing them off and taking all the food.
Sookie's life grows more complex when she gets information in the mail that changes her perception of who she is in a big way. Earle is very supportive and encourages her to both stand up for herself against her mother, and to investigate the information she has come into.
There are lots of fun characters here, and a great story that comes to life gradually for Sookie as she delves deeper into her own past. Highly enjoyable.