I Still Dream About You

Here’s a review of a new audio book. I love listening to books when I’m driving by myself.  As much as I love to read the old-fashioned way, I think some books are even better when heard.

By Linda Brinson

I STILL DREAM ABOUT YOU.  By Fannie Flagg. Random House Audio. (Also available from Random House in print edition.) Nine compact discs. 10 ½ hours. $40. Read by the author.

I’ve just spent several days driving around with Fannie Flagg, and Lord!, the things that woman thinks of! Honey, a time or two, I laughed so hard I thought I might run right off the road.

I’ve read and loved most of Fannie Flagg’s novels, starting with Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Café. This is the first one I’ve listened to as an audio book, and it was a delight. Flagg doesn’t attempt different voices for various characters; she just reads in her own charming, understated accent. The effect is as if Flagg has favored you with a personal reading of her latest story. Talk about feeling special!

The story is that of Maggie Fortenberry, a real-estate agent in Birmingham, Ala., who finds herself at a low point indeed. Forty or so years ago, Maggie was Miss Alabama and seemed on a sure track to becoming Miss America. But something went wrong in Atlantic City, and then a number of other things went wrong in her life.  Now in her early 60s, never married, Maggie feels that many of her problems are the result of her own bad decisions. There are secrets in her life of which she is ashamed. Too often, she feels that she has let down the entire state of Alabama, which had bestowed such an honor on her.

Others of her woes are hardly her fault, but they are burdensome nonetheless.  Things have gone downhill at work and in life since the death five years ago of Hazel Whisenknott, the dynamic founder of Red Mountain Realty. And the prospects of anything improving, as far as Maggie can see, are dim.

As the story opens, Maggie has come up with what she thinks is a foolproof plan to end her despair. The only problem is that life interferes in the most surprising ways with even the best plans, so she must keep adjusting her timetable. The way things have been going, who knows what might happen next?

Maggie is not the only one who keeps getting surprised. So do the listeners (or readers), who will find their minds reeling as Flagg slips in one unexpected tidbit of information after another, and raises a number of intriguing mysteries.

Without belaboring the subjects, she also offers interesting and insightful information about the history of Birmingham and what it was like for blacks and whites to live through the civil rights strife there.

This is vintage Fannie Flagg. The comedy is perfect, never overdone and mixed liberally with wisdom and empathy.  Eventually, Maggie comes to understand that nobody is perfect, and nobody, not even a former Miss Alabama, needs to be.

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