“Welcome to the World, Baby Girl! is the funny, serious, and compelling new novel by Fannie Flagg, author of the beloved Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe (and prize-winning co-writer of the classic movie).
Once again, Flagg’s humor and respect and affection for her characters shine forth. Many inhabit small-town or suburban America. But this time, her heroine is urban: a brainy, beautiful, and ambitious rising star of 1970s television. Dena Nordstrom, pride of the network, is a woman whose future is full of promise, her present rich with complications, and her past marked by mystery.”
I have been on a Fannie Flagg kick so I picked up all of her books that the library had, which just happened to be all of them but a small handful. This is the first book in the Elmwood Springs series.
The plot of this book jumps between Elmwood Springs and New York City to follow the family (Norma and Macky) and the main character (Dena). Dena is a working woman who is making her way by working as an interviewer on the news. She is the best in the business (though she is very easily confused later in the book when she is trying to solve the mystery of the book). She is in therapy first with a typical therapist, then with a badass hypnotherapist. Yet again Fannie Flagg has captured my attention with the smaller characters of black hypnotherapist in the wheelchair and Aunt Elner. To a lesser extent I loved Neighbor Dorothy, Norma, and Macky, but I never felt a connection to Dena. She was too emotionally stunted and pushed everyone away, including the reader.
The twist of the book is that Dena had made an enemy by trying to be a good person. This enemy was a total sleaze. He threatened to reveal that her mother was a Nazi. Dena then tries to find out if her mother really was a Nazi because she hasn’t seen her since she was fifteen or sixteen. This is the main plot of the book that doesn’t happen until the last hundred pages or so. Her first therapist helps her out and tries to get her to date him at the same time (boy this guy tries really hard. I was embarrassed for him by the end). The twist, look away now if you don’t want to be spoiled, is she is part black. Not even a huge part, but maybe a sixteenth or less.
The plot just gets more ridiculous as it describes what happens to Dena’s mother. She cuts her wrists and ankles in a bathtub in Vienna trying to get the small amount she has out of her body (talk about a white person’s solution to the problem). So overall the plot was very much Fannie Flagg. She is great at writing middle class, middle America, small town white people. She is not known to write amazing black characters or race issues. She did do a decent job at writing the black therapist. Fannie Flagg is decent at writing about characters with disabilities, but this is only shown through side characters where there is not a lot of depth.
The writing style was slow and steady. It had a lot of back story as always. I started to count down to finishing the book because it felt like I was living through every year with the characters. So if you are looking for a feel good novel about a small town, turn to Fannie Flagg every time. Though this is not my favorite book by Fannie Flagg, it is still a decent read if you don’t want to think and you only like minimally intense plot lines that don’t raise your heart rate. The huge mystery barely registered as a mystery plot, instead it was more like “OK, Dena take a step forward for once in your life”. I was more annoyed that Dena didn’t know anything about herself than I was excited to find out something about her.
4 out of 5 stars. I would recommend this book, selectively.
You can buy this book here.