The All-Girl Filling Station’s Last Reunion by Fannie Flagg slips right up alongside Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe in deftly handling the intricacies of relationships across generations and cultures. The story is addictive and satisfying; the story-within-the-story is rooted in The All-Girl Filling Station portrayed as a World War II phenomenon when the men were at war and the women carried on the work of our nation. Due to the highly automated nature of this war’s production, women were more involved in factory work, fabrication and construction usually reserved (usurped) by men. The patriotic drive of those at home to support their warriors solidified a get-on-with-it attitude of ingenuity and stoicism.
Fannie Flagg feathers the language to keep us in thrall; a day-in-the-life introduction to one seemingly-silly self-involved woman masks the deep questions of destiny and opportunity she brings to light. Like Fried Green Tomatoes tackled domestic violence, there’s an ugly fact of male intrusion on the peace and survival of women in this book that cannot be denied. It lurks there, beneath the social conventions and the cultural limits, the dirty secret that some men will hurt women just because they can. The book adopts a multi-generational perspective so that we can see the mistakes of the past and the possibilities of the future, made possible by the inventiveness of these women in times of need.
There are authors like Fannie Flagg and Maeve Binchy who evoke time and place with abiding love by not flinching from the sentimental, or the sadistic, within the community in view. It’s a storyteller’s cadence that lets the homespun smarts take you by surprise.
COMMENTARY by Kathleen K., indie author and publisher
CONTENT CLARIFICATION: In addition to the eight erotic-sexotic books available at KathleenK.xxx, there are four family-fiction all-age books at KathleenK.com that focus on the glory & horror of daily life without the folderol of overt sex. KathleenKBooks.com ties the two together.
Each of us has a contextual history, our youth and formative years unfolding within some one era. My grandmas sent their many sons to War War II, and saw their many daughters working outside the home, going to dance halls on weekends, unmarried far longer than they themselves ever expected… it became a different world in some ways.
After WWII, returning veterans took back their positions, thinking the ladies would be relieved to resume housework and child-rearing. Some were. Some weren’t. Not as many men came back as went away so some of the women kept their war-time empowerment. They solidified the base from which women surged forward toward their bra-burning futures.
Mine was a mid-Boomer family, we were solidly rooted in the Fifties with Dad advancing up the ladder at work and Mom tending the kids. We knew she’d had a good job at the aluminum company during the War so the idea of women working wasn’t alien. Some of our aunts continued to work outside the home for the government, in banking, or as nurses and secretaries. It was true that we were considered lucky that our family could afford to have Mom at home ‘where she belonged’.
Flip forward fifty years and there is progress toward gender neutrality but we are not there. Crime statistics, wage graphs, census reports all reflect the fact of women being institutionally disadvantaged… and that is here in our ever-so-clever society.
It wasn’t so long ago that the idea that a female pilot was anything more than a stunt, and a stupid stunt at that, seemed obvious. It turns out, the non-fictional highly-functional Women Airforce Service Pilots were under-valued and disrespected in that rough-shod way men disrespect others they consider inferior: no military status for women flyers, no military benefits for women flyers, no place in their self-congratulatory history for the women who helped them win the war.
How antiquated, I would like to think, how absolutely self-defeating to discount half your citizens in the national quest for stability and growth, and to rally defense as needed. Then it occurs to me that as long as we take ourselves seriously, women don’t need permission to advance.
ADDITIONAL COMMENTARY ON WOMEN SPEAKING OUT
It is heartening to see that women continue to exercise their influence (strengthening it); they will not be shushed! The Internet is a big part of that. The historic male stranglehold on the courts and the media meant decades of abuse were not challenged because the victims were silenced with the truth: no one will believe you. True, then; not so true now.
It is no coincidence that when men throttle access to “their” world then predatory sub-worlds exist. Just for instance, in politics, sports, church, and Hollywood, where piggish men defiled women, girls, and boys, it continued because the good men preferred not to believe that was even possible. Many decent men averted their eyes, and soothed themselves with the certainty that you couldn’t be a sex-creep and a successful coach-comic-cleric-politico. It didn’t make sense to most men with ordinary egos that some men put their own sex indulgences before another person’s safety and survival, but they were shocked to discover those idiots would risk the reputation of their church or the profitability of a college sports program for a self-indulgent vice. That was crazy.
I reserve a special curiosity for abusers’ spouses who may in all truth claim they never saw that behavior… of course not! That’s the best part of the game for the defiler, isn’t it? The loyal mate, the shiny plaques, the public accolades are counterpoint to the low-down dirt these cretins love to wallow in. The other victims may be nameless-faceless objects to be dismissed when finished, but that starstruck spouse is the true audience to be used like a canary in a mine. If she’s still chirping his praises, he’s clear to continue.