Fried Green Tomatoes author Fannie Flagg has long perfected a recipe for whimsical tales of the Southern sisterhood. Her latest novel, set in her hometown of Birmingham, Alabama, is a comedy-mystery featuring a group of semi-geriatric estate agents – a golden-girl romp but not as we've known it before.
Since her childhood days spent in a cramped apartment above a local movie theatre, 60-year old Maggie Fortenberry, has pined for a gracious period home. Instead, she finds herself selling the dream to others via her successful business, Red Mountain Realty. A former Miss Alabama, Maggie always signs notes with a smiley face and has never "cussed" in public. But scratch beneath the chipper exterior, and all is not well. She has written a suicide note, minus the emoticons, and cancelled all but one of her credit cards.
As ever in Flagg's fiction, the narrative focuses around a group of closely knit, possibly gay, female friends. Maggie's depression has largely been triggered by the death of her diminutive boss and mentor – a self-styled "cute midget" with a life-affirming touch. Since her demise, the fortunes of Red Mountain Realty have crashed. Homes aren't selling and Maggie and her fellow co-workers are struggling to keep the business going. To make matters worse, Babs "the Beast of Birmingham "Bingington, a rival agent, is snapping up clients and commissions.
A large part of the novel's camper moments revolve around the scuppering of Maggie's suicide plans as friends and events conspire to get in the way. But it's the news that "Crestview", Red Mountain's most historic property, is about to come on the market that really stops Maggie in her tracks.
Hell-bent on keeping this turreted folly out of Babs Bingington's hands, she finds herself embroiled in a fight to the death – a skirmish that will re-activate her zest for living and a long dormant romance. If Flagg's world can at times feel overly-heated and overstuffed, her well-upholstered heroines have a habit of keeping us rooting for them all the way.
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