Fannie Flagg has been charming readers and audiences alike with her cast of enchanting characters and their humorous tales of friendship and love since she was nineteen. Best known for Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe, Flagg’s novels transport her readers into small-town America and surround them with a cast of deeply human characters. The best way to approach Flagg’s novels is in chronological reading order as it grants readers the opportunity to watch the characters grow over time.
Flagg was enamored with the world of literature and film from a young age. She wrote her first play at the age of ten and was encouraged by her father to pursue a career in acting. Moving to New York as a young woman, Flagg began to write for and perform on Candid Camera among various other game and panel shows, gaining public acclaim.
In 1981, Flagg published her first novel, Coming Attractions. Flagg submitted the first iteration of the novel to a short story competition in 1978, in which she won first prize. The semi-autobiographical novel achieved critical acclaim and was a bestseller for ten weeks after its release. Since her first novel, Flagg has experienced repeated success in both her literary and film pursuits.
To truly immerse themselves in Flagg’s captivating host of characters and lively settings, readers should read her series in chronological order. This grants readers the opportunity to watch the characters as they age and fumble their way through career goals, relationships, and the prospect of growing old. Read on to discover the best reading order for Fannie Flagg’s novels!
Elmwood Springs Series
Welcome to the World, Baby Girl! (1998)
Contrasting small-town America with the glamor of New York, Flagg introduces readers to a cast of both truly wonderful and utterly repulsive characters. Centered around Dena Nordstrom, a successful but anxiety-ridden morning show star, the novel begins with Dena being instructed to return to her hometown by a doctor who is concerned about her health.
Shocked by the contrast between bustling New York and her sleepy hometown of Elmwood Springs, Dena feels out of place among townspeople who call her ‘Baby girl’ and remember more about her childhood than she does.
As Dena acquaints herself with her charming, if quirky neighbors, she begins to unravel the mystery of her past and her mother’s disappearance. The truth will lead Dina to question her own career as a gossipmonger and reevaluate what she wants from her life.
Welcome to the World, Baby Girl! is a heartwarming read about self-discovery and the ties that keep everyone connected to their hometown.
Standing in the Rainbow (2002)
Flagg returns readers to the small town of Elmwood Springs to explore the lives and dreams of Dorothy and her son, Bobby, from 1946 to the present day. Dorothy is an eccentric and charming woman who ran a radio broadcast from her living room, reporting the news and offering housework tips to her listeners across the American midwest. As Dorothy regales the adventures of Bobby and Anna Lee to her eager listeners, readers get to witness the wayward Bobby as he grows up.
Elmwood Springs is stunned by the arrival of the Oatman family, and everyone, from the salesman, Hamm Sparks, to the poultry king, Charlie Fowler, must come to terms with the shifting appearance of the town as the century marches on. The future is epitomized by the latest addition to the area, the Three Little Pigs Cafeteria, with its glaring neon sign that casts new light on the town.
Flagg perfectly captures both the excitement and fear of modernity in Standing in the Rainbow and reveals more about the beloved characters of her first novel.
Can’t Wait to Get to Heaven (2006)
Back in the quaint yet bizarre town of Elmwood Springs, readers follow octogenarian, Elner Shimfissle through a series of comical and outrageous encounters. A gardening accident sees Elner rushed to hospital where everyone believes she has died. As loved ones and neighbors start preparing for Elner’s funeral, Elner finds herself in a town that is strangely familiar and occupied with faces she never thought she would see again.
From discussions of faith to small-town gossip, Elner’s neighbors struggle to understand this new chain of events. Some search for new career paths while others delight in random acts of destruction. And others are simply determined to stay alive until they can get their social security.
Asking the age-old question: “Why are we here?”, Can’t Wait to Get to Heaven dives into this enormous philosophical debate with the charm and wit readers have come to expect from Flagg.
The Whole Town’s Talking (2016)
Flagg offers readers a beautiful, moving conclusion to the story of Elmwood Springs in The Whole Town’s Talking. The town itself has been a central character throughout the series and truly gets to shine in this fantastical end to its narrative.
Elmwood Springs was founded in 1890 by Lordor Nordstrom and has been home to the eccentric and the bizarre ever since. As the town grows, Lordor allocates an area for a graveyard, a place to commemorate the dead of the town. Still Meadows, however, is far from what it seems and the townsfolk of Elmwood Springs never truly leave.
As readers witness the town grow and age, the status quo undergoes countless changes. From the shock of the World Wars to conniving neighbors, nothing is ever truly settled in Elmwood Springs or, it would seem, Still Meadows.
Raising questions of the afterlife, love, and reincarnation, Flagg’s final addition to the Elmwood Springs series is a delightful, loving send-off to a beautiful town many readers wish could be real. The Whole Town’s Talking combines humor, grief, and wit masterfully.
The Whistle Stop Novels
Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe (1987)
Centered around the lives of four women, both living and dead, Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe explores the enduring nature of female friendship and what it means to strive for independence in the face of constant discrimination.
Evelyn Couch believes the Women’s Liberation came too late for her to truly embrace it, given that she is already married and the mother of two children. Still traumatized from her mother’s death and deeply unsatisfied with her role as a housewife, Evelyn is searching for change and inspiration. This comes in the form of Ninny Threadgoode, an elderly woman who is outspoken about marriage, sex, and children.
As the two women grow close, Ninny recounts stories of Idgie Threadgoode and Ruth Jamison. The two women ran a cafe during the Great Depression, serving customers that other local businesses wouldn’t entertain. Through their tale of enduring love and communal support, Evelyn is inspired to change her own life.
This timely tale of female love and independence is beautifully and earnestly told by Flagg. Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe was adapted into a hugely successful film starring Cathy Bates and Jessica Tandy.
The Wonder Boy of Whistle Stop (2020)
The second installment in the Whistle Stop series focuses on Bud, the son of Ruth Jamison. Elderly and confined to a care home, Bud longs for his hometown of Whistle Stop and often passes his time reminiscing about his home with his daughter, Ruthie. Inspired to do something daring, Bud runs away from his care home, setting a wave of both hilarious and heartwarming events in motion.
Ruthie, now terrified of where her father could be, encounters Evelyn Couch. The two women partner up to find Bud and foster a beautiful friendship reminiscent of Evelyn’s relationship with Ninny.
While Whistle Stop is a shell of the bustling small town Bud remembers, it is still rich with outrageous and endearing characters who welcome back one of their own. Through hilarious twists that will warm any reader’s heart, The Wonder Boy of Whistle Stop combines nostalgia and hope with the enduring love people have for their hometown.
Coming Attractions (also titled Daisy Fay and the Miracle Man) (1981)
In Flagg’s first novel, she explores the charm of Southern ideals as well as the importance of breaking away from them. Daisy Fay, a young Southern girl determined to become someone, is caught between her father’s schemes to get rich quickly and her own desires for fame and fortune.
The novel follows Daisy’s diary as she settles into a new town. Between causing the near collapse of her father’s shop and battling with her rival, Kay Bob Benson, for popularity, readers bear witness to Daisy’s turbulent, though often hilarious, journey to adulthood.
In this semi-autobiographical novel, Flagg explores the complexities of familial relationships and girlhood, creating a beloved and endearing protagonist that readers continue to love to this day. Coming Attractions captures what it means to be a young girl trying to find a place in a world that hasn’t been built for her.
A Redbird Christmas (2004)
Leaving his hectic life in Chicago behind after a shocking diagnosis, Oswald T. Campbell heads to the quaint town of Lost River to enjoy what he believes is his last Christmas. Hidden in the south of Alabama, Lost River appears to have been forgotten by the rest of the world.
It’s far from a ghost town though. Oswald quickly finds himself acquainted with a host of oddball characters who welcome him into their ranks. From heartbroken shopkeepers to the ladies of the clandestine Mystic Order of the Royal Polka Dots Secret Society, there is never a dull moment in Lost River.
At the center of the tale is Jack, a redbird who will change Oswald’s life forever. A Redbird Christmas is an utterly charming tale that will warm the heart of whoever reads it.
I Still Dream About You (2010)
Unsatisfied with her life despite having a successful career, at the age of sixty Maggie Fortenberry is ready to end it all, certain that the only things she’ll miss about life are the change of seasons in her hometown and the beautiful, historic Crestview.
When all Maggie’s attempts are accidentally thwarted by the interruptions of co-workers and neighbors, Maggie begins to unravel the secrets at the heart of her quaint town and realizes that no one’s life is quite what it seems.
Filled with laughter and deeply moving characters, I Still Dream About You explores the beauty people ignore when they are consumed by their unfulfilled dreams.
The All-Girl Filling Station’s Last Reunion (2013)
In Clear Point, Alabama, Sookie Poole believes it’s finally time to relax and enjoy time with her husband after marrying off the last of their daughters. Despite wanting to avoid her overbearing mother, when Sookie uncovers a secret about her mother’s past, she is propelled into an investigation into who exactly her mother was growing up.
As Sookie discovers more about the adventures of the women at the All-Girl Filling Station, she is transported into a world of fabulous female entrepreneurship. Truly inspired for the first time in her life, Sookie’s life is forever changed.
The All-Girl Filling Station’s Last Reunion is Flagg at her finest as she weaves the past and the present together in this delightful tale.
Through her charming and witty novels, Flagg brings the American South to life. Tales of love, mystery, and communal support transport her readers across time and space and reveal the delights of small-town America. Opening one of her novels allows readers to step into a different world of the utterly bizarre and yet comfortingly human.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is Fannie Flagg dyslexic?
Yes, Fannie Flagg has discussed her dyslexia numerous times and attributes it to her decision to initially pursue acting instead of writing.
Did Fannie Flagg write a cookbook?
There is a cookbook authored by Fannie Flagg that includes the recipes described in Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe.
Did Fannie Flagg write the film adaptation of Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe?
Yes, Flagg co-wrote the script and the film went on to win several prestigious awards.
Has Fannie Flagg won any awards?
Flagg was awarded the Harper Lee Award for being Alabama’s Distinguished Writer of the Year in 2012.
Where does Fannie Flagg live?
Currently, she divides her time between California and Alabama.