I spend several hours most days reading books. Right now I’m in the middle of A Red Bird at Christmas by Fannie Flagg, one of my favorite authors. It is the story of a Chicago man in his 50s who had been diagnosed with emphysema. His doctor told him to go somewhere South where it was warm and he could live the last months of his life in comfort.

He moves to a tiny town in Alabama and soon finds himself becoming a part of the community. Among the characters are a young, abandoned girl who is adopted by the whole town, and a red bird named Jack with a broken wing that lives in a store where everyone helps care for it.

The man in the story begins to feel better. He eats healthier food. Several widow ladies are interested in him.

That’s as far as I’ve gotten in my reading, but I’m eager to see what happens next. I like the way Fannie invents interesting characters. She is also very good at describing the importance of a small town.

I recently finished Fannie Flagg’s book The Whole Town’s Talking. Again, a small town is important to the story. The Swedish man who had helped establish the town answered an ad in the paper for a mail order wife. She was an immigrant who hoped to live where there were others from Sweden.

They fell in love and had a family, and you just want the best for them. When the man dies, he is buried in a cemetery on a hill near town. There we discover that deceased people from the town continue to talk with one another, sharing stories and gossip.

By combining those conversations with the goings on of people still living in the town, Fannie manages to tell us the story of several generations of the community. It is a very interesting way to present many sides of a town and how people interact with one another.

My joy of reading began when I was in the sixth grade. I had rheumatic fever and was in bed for about six weeks. The town of Dexter where we lived didn’t have a library, but the doctor who was treating me had several children and they had lots of books in their home that they let us borrow. The neighboring town of Stuart had a Carnegie library. Dad would go over and load up the car with books and bring them back for me to read.

Among the books I read then were the Bobbsey Twins books. The family in those stories had two sets of twins who had many adventures. They were the best children you can imagine. I wanted to be exactly like them. I could never be that good, though, but I did like to read about them.

Reading is such an important way to learn new ideas and discover the world and the people in it. I encourage parents to read to their young children. Hold them in your laps and read. As they become older, make books available to them. Have books in the house. It can change their lives.

As my eyesight has failed, I’ve been getting audio books from the Iowa Library for the Blind. It has been such a gift to be able to push a button on my player and listen to one book after another being read by expert presenters.

The books come on digital disks with about ten books on each. If I don’t like where a book is going, I can just move on to the next book. If it is too boring or too bawdy, I move on.

A book I recently read was a biography of Eleanor Roosevelt, wife of President Franklin Roosevelt. I’ve always admired her and was delighted to learn more about her life. There were so many things about our country that she wanted to help make better. I think we need more of that today.

The most recent disk also has Michelle Obama’s new book. I am eager to read that one to learn what she has to say.

Of course, I always look forward to any books by Fannie Flagg. She and I have been friends since her book Welcome to the World, Baby Girl! had a main character who is a radio homemaker.

Fannie’s most famous book is Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Café. Here is her recipe for those tomatoes.

Fannie Flagg’s Fried

Green Tomatoes

 

¾ cup self-rising flour

¼ cup cornmeal

¼ teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon pepper

¾ cup milk

3 to 4 green tomatoes, cut into ¼ inch slices

Vegetable oil

 

Combine first five ingredients, mix until smooth. Add additional milk to thin if necessary; batter should resemble pancake batter. Working in batches, dip tomato slices into batter, allow excess batter to drip back into the bowl. Fry in two inches hot oil in a large heavy skillet until browned, turning once carefully with tongs. Transfer to colander to drain. Yields 3 to 4 servings.

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