Thursday, November 11, 2010

Review: I Still Dream About You

Summary: The beloved Fannie Flagg is back and at her irresistible and hilarious best in I Still Dream About You, a comic mystery romp through the streets of Birmingham, Alabama, past, present, and future.

Meet Maggie Fortenberry, a still beautiful former Miss Alabama. To others, Maggie’s life seems practically perfect—she’s lovely, charming, and a successful real estate agent at Red Mountain Realty. Still, Maggie can’t help but wonder how she wound up in her present condition. She had been on her hopeful way to becoming Miss America and realizing her childhood dream of someday living in one of the elegant old homes on top of Red Mountain, with the adoring husband and the 2.5 children, but then something unexpected happened and changed everything.

Maggie graduated at the top of her class at charm school, can fold a napkin in more than forty-eight different ways, and can enter and exit a car gracefully, but all the finesse in the world cannot help her now. Since the legendary real estate dynamo Hazel Whisenknott, beloved founder of Red Mountain Realty, died five years ago, business has gone from bad to worse—and the future isn’t looking much better. But just when things seem completely hopeless, Maggie suddenly comes up with the perfect plan to solve it all.

As Maggie prepares to put her plan into action, we meet the cast of high-spirited characters around her. To Brenda Peoples, Maggie’s best friend and real estate partner, Maggie’s life seems easy as pie. Slender Maggie doesn’t have to worry about her figure, or about her Weight Watchers sponsor catching her at the Krispy Kreme doughnut shop. And Ethel Clipp, Red Mountain’s ancient and grumpy office manager with the bright purple hair, thinks the world of Maggie but has absolutely nothing nice to say about their rival Babs “The Beast of Birmingham” Bingington, the unscrupulous estate agent who hates Maggie and is determined to put her out of business.

Maggie has heartbreaking secrets in her past, but through a strange turn of events, she soon discovers, quite by accident, that everybody, it seems—dead or alive—has at least one little secret.
I Still Dream About You is a wonderful novel that is equal parts Southern charm, murder mystery, and that perfect combination of comedy and old-fashioned wisdom that can be served up only by America’s own remarkable Fannie Flagg. -- Random House

I absolutely love Fannie Flagg -- she really is one of my favorite authors and I can guarantee that I will anything and everything she writes. So a few months ago, when I first heard that she had a new book coming out, I got very excited and started a little countdown until publication. Fortunately, I received a copy in the mail a few weeks prior to the publication date, so my wait was a bit shorter!

I don't know about you, but it sure seemed to me like it's been awhile since Fannie Flagg wrote a new book. I am so happy to say that I STILL DREAM ABOUT YOU was well worth the wait. As is the case with all of Fannie Flagg's books, I thought this novel was delightful and I found myself adoring all of the characters. There is no doubt that I will be recommending I STILL DREAM ABOUT YOU to everyone I know. And if you don't believe me, check out what Pat Conroy (another one of my favorite writers) said. "Flagg creates a world that you love entering and are reluctant to leave. ...She has written a wondrous gift for all of us." I couldn't agree more -- this book was just a treat for me.

When I think of Fannie Flagg's novels, the first thing that pops into my mind is "great Southern fiction." I STILL DREAM ABOUT YOU is no exception. This novel takes place in Birmingham Alabama, and Ms. Flagg brings writes about Birmingham as if she truly knows the ins and outs of this city. Not only does she offer detailed descriptions of Birmingham (ones of both the present and the past), she actually brings this city to life for the reader (even those of us not familiar with Birmingham.) In fact, I'd go so far as to say that Ms. Flagg has made Birmingham another character in her novel with her vivid descriptions of the city.

In addition to writing wonderful Southern fiction novels, I also consider Ms. Flagg to be a genius when it comes to creating memorable characters. That is certainly the case in I STILL DREAM ABOUT YOU. Readers will find themselves becoming attached to Maggie, the former Miss Alabama, who appears perfect to everyone, yet finds herself deep in the woes of depression. She epitomizes so much of what I think about when I hear the term "Southern Lady." In addition,  Maggie's friend and co-worker Brenda is another character that you can't help but love. She's a spunky black woman who wants to be Birmingham's next mayor, and I appreciated how her character provided some depth to the story. And although Hazel (the original owner of the realty company) had passed away, she still was an incredibly vibrant character in the novel. Her words lived on and she provided some much needed wisdom to many different characters in the novel. Personally, I just loved Hazel's little nuggets of advice.

One thing that stood out to me about this novel, which set it apart from Fannie Flagg's other books, was the mystery aspect of the story. When, Maggie discovers the remains of a body in the attic of a house she recently sold, she decides to conduct her own investigation. She begins researching the history of the family who owned the house and discovers some very interesting (and strange) things about the family. I enjoyed being along for the ride during Maggie's investigation and just when I thought Maggie solved the mystery, there was a major twist which definitely kept things interesting.

Despite having Maggie's suicidal thoughts as a main theme in the novel, this book was still very, very funny and filled with hope. I don't know how, but Fannie Flagg makes me laugh harder than almost any other author. From Maggie's constant "issues" which  made her keep delaying her suicide, to the scene where Maggie is pulled over for speeding, to the antics of the cut-throat real estate agent, I STILL DREAM ABOUT YOU was a riot!

Finally, I just loved how much fun I had reading I STILL DREAM ABOUT YOU. Of course, the story and the characters were entertaining and I appreciated that there was a mystery element to the novel; however, I most loved the way this book made me feel. I became so attached to all of the characters! I laughed (a lot) and I cried a little, but I just adored the ride I went on with Maggie. I also loved the messages that this story left with me -- namely hope!

I'm sure I don't have to say this, but I STILL DREAM ABOUT YOU would make a wonderful book club pick. It's a blast to read but it also touches on some great discussion topics. There is a readers guide available which might provide some direction for you group. Some of the topics you might want to discuss include suicide, dreams, loss, love, grief, consequences, and hope.

Fans of Fannie Flagg's will just love her latest novel I STILL DREAM ABOUT YOU. It's a terrific book that has a little something to offer every type of reader. I highly recommend it!

Thanks to the publisher for sending me a copy of this book.


Mary (Bookfan) said...

Nice review. I'm a big fan of Fannie Flagg and can't wait to read it!

(Diane) Bibliophile By the Sea said...

Your terrific review has gotten me excited for this one.

rhapsodyinbooks said...

I'd love to know what the 48 different ways of folding a napkin are!!!

Beth Hoffman said...

Great review, Julie. I love Fannie Flagg and this book is on my list!

Jenn's Bookshelves said...

I, too, am a fan of Flagg's writing. I discovered her when my book club read Redbird Christmas and I've been a fan ever since. I can't wait to read this one. Thanks for the review!

Karlie said...

I can't wait to read this one. Great review!

Anonymous said...

I love everything Fannie Flagg does. If she wrote directions I'd read them with rapt attention. I am so excited about this book I can't even say. The minute it is in my house it will become number one on my reading list. I so glad you liked it. Am I the only one here old enough to remember her on Match Game?

Jo-Jo said...

I haven't read anything by Flagg yet but this really sounds like one that I would enjoy.

Sandy Nawrot said...

I feel a bit like a loser as I have not read anything by Flagg. She was at SIBA (I missed her!) and apparently there was quite a fuss over sounded like she had some big fans at the event!

Alyce said...

I know, I was surprised at how funny it was for a book where the main character is contemplating suicide. I really need to get my review together for this book.

bermudaonion said...

Well, Fannie is from Alabama! Did I mention that I got to meet Fannie Flagg at SIBA? She is just as wonderful as you think she is. I cannot wait to read this book!!

Anonymous said...

I love Fannie Flagg. I can't wait to read it, especially after reading your review!

Beth F said...

I have loved the books I've read by her and I've been looking forward to this newest one. Your review makes me think I should read it sooner than later.

Unknown said...

I have read all Flagg's books and found this one only average.I felt it did get better mid way through