By the Book @ Rogers Memorial Library

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

“The rest of the day, Sookie kept catching glimpses of herself in the mirror.  She knew she looked the same on the outside.  She walked and talked like the same person.  But she didn’t know who or what she was on the inside.”

Sookie Poole of Point Clear, Alabama has survived the weddings of all three of her daughters — one of which featured dogs, cats and a turtle as bridal attendants.  She feels that she has earned a long rest dedicated to fixing up her yard and dealing with the greedy blue jays that are driving the smaller birds away from her bird feeders.  Then a registered letter arrives that turns Sookie’s whole world upside down.

Growing up in Point Clear, Sookie never met the high expectations of her beautiful and flamboyant mother, Mrs. Lenore Simmons Krackenberry.  While Sookie joined all the clubs and participated in activities that Lenore felt were necessary for any Southern girl of quality (especially a Simmons), her heart was never in it.  In college, Sookie tried to follow Lenore’s advice to be perky and “date, date, date,” but in her senior year she decided to marry Earle Poole, Jr., a kind dental student.  Lenore thought the Pooles were a decent family, but she was appalled by their big ears.  She didn’t want her grandchildren to have those ears.

The mysterious letter informs Sookie that she’s adopted.  For a person who has based so much of her identity on her family name and connections, this news is devastating.  Sookie has no idea who she is, if she’s not a Simmons.  And who are these people, the Jurdabralinskis of Pulaski, Wisconsin?  Sookie knows nothing about Wisconsin or Polish people.  Could this be why she likes cheese so much?

The All-Girl Filling Station’s Last Reunion, by Fannie Flagg, moves between the present-day life of Sookie Poole and the history of the Jurdabralinksi family in the days of the Great Depression and World War II.  Sookie’s birth family were Polish immigrants who worked hard and saved enough to open a Phillips filling station.  The four daughters and one son all pitched in to meet the strict standards of the Phillips company, while Poppa slept on a cot in the station to meet the needs of late night drivers. When the beloved son Wink enlisted in the army as a pilot and Poppa fell ill, the oldest sister, Fritzi, and the rest of the girls took over the business.  People came from miles away to see the Jurdabalinski girls who would glide on their roller skates to fill the tank and check the oil of every customer.  When not working hard, the four Jurdabralinski siblings took to the sky, learning to fly from an itinerant air show pilot.  As the war continued to escalate, the three sisters volunteered to fly for Uncle Sam as Women Airforce Service Pilots.

This book explores family, relationships, self-esteem, narcissism and other serious topics in a light-hearted manner.  Flagg perfectly captures the tone of the small Southern town and takes you back in time to the Midwest in the 1940’s.  Flagg also writes about the involvement of women as pilots in World War II, delivering a fascinating slice of little-known history.  If you are seeking a laugh-out-loud funny book with lots of heart, give this one a try.

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