I don’t usually associate historical fiction with one of my favorite authors, Fannie Flagg, but her latest book turns out to be just that as she tells a story centered around present day Mrs. Earl Poole, Jr., a.k.a. Sarah Jane “Sookie” and the World War II era.
The book begins with Sookie having just survived her third daughter’s (Ce Ce) wedding – Le Le, Ce Ce’s twin, and Dee Dee being the other two daughters. It was a bit of an unusual wedding – instead of a wedding bouquet, Ce Ce had carried a ten-pound Persian cat down the aisle and the groom’s German Shepherd (dressed in a tux) had served as best man!
Sookie’s mother, eighty-eight year-old Lenore Simmons Krackenberry, lives just two doors down the block from Earl and Sookie and she is quite the handful. Lenore is highly opinionated and on more than one occasion her “opinions” have gotten her into hot water. Earl, Sookie’s husband, is a mild-mannered, easy-going dentist.
Sookie has never felt sure she fit in with her family and the relationship between Lenore and Snookie is often contentious. Sookie receives a telephone call informing her of a mysterious package which will be delivered by registered mail the next day. She is not even sure she wants to sign for the package, but when she gets the package and opens it up she is in for the shock of her life.
The story then begins to go back and forth from present day to the 1940’s and the events of World War II. That is where the historical fiction part comes in (by the way, Fannie Flagg’s books are always hysterically heartwarming and funny). Ms. Flagg weaves a story of a Polish family and their struggles and triumphs to pursue their American dream of owning their own business, raising their family and sending three of their children (one son and two daughters) off to serve in the war effort.
Stanislaw opens a Phillips 66 station in Pulaski, Wisconsin and it becomes a successful family business. Fritzi Willinka Jurdabralinski, the oldest child of Stanislaw and Linka Marie, is free-spirited and a bit on the wild side – she joins a flying circus as a wing-walker and later learns to fly. When Stanislaw becomes too ill to run the station his daughters step up to the plate and keep it open for a time, until in the middle of World War II gas and rubber rationing hits hard and they have to close the station.
As the story continues to switch back and forth between present day and the late 1930’s and early 1940’s, details about the World War II era unfold and we learn about the WASPs (Women Airforce Service Pilots) who flew planes from airplane factories to military bases or ships. The women all had commercial pilot licenses and were trained to “fly the Army way” but did not receive any sort of combat training. When the filling station closed, Fritzi was restless so she signed up to serve as a WASP.
I won’t give more details because that would spoil it. Suffice it to say that Fritzi figures prominently in Sookie’s story and eventually Sookie is able to connect with Fritzi and find out the truth about who she really is. If you like heartwarming, funny books or are a fan of Fannie Flagg, then you won’t want to miss this one. Happily worth five big stars!
Have a GREAT day . . . someday it will be HISTORY!
© Sharon Hall (Digging History), 2014.