I recently viewed the film of the same (well, similar) name, and it was very interesting to experience them so closely together.
A really lovely story, well crafted. More so in the book than in the film, although the film did an excellent job (IMO) of capturing the essence of the book (not surprising, as Flagg was one of the screenplay writers). Actually, I found that the film had far more emotional impact on me . . . in the book, things were rarely surprising, because of the way she layered the story; you almost always got a hint of what was to come before the fact, which made it all less intense. In the book, there are two stories going on, both of which are mostly chronological (IIRC - the movie may have skipped around a bit, and there is one big flashback, but mostly it kept moving ahead). In the book, the "current day" storyline moves forward, but the historical one skips around all over the place (mostly in the 1930s through the 50s). Actually, in the book there is a third "level" of storytelling, as we see not only the events themselves, but news reports about them, as well. It was very cleverly put together.
For me, the essence of the story was family - and that "family" is the people you choose to be with, in addition to those related to you by blood. This is brought out right from the start, when we learn that Ninny (the "narrator" of much of the story) was "adopted" by the Threadgoode family. And throughout, we see strong bonds between the people in the town of Whistle Stop, those who are related to one another, and those who aren't, both black and white. It's a tight-knit community, and something which I've really never experienced personally. In my own life, I have certainly never lived anywhere that the neighbors knew and cared that much about one another - I don't know if it's the way my family interacted with others, or just that things are different now in most places.
The other thing that struck me about the book is the relationship between Ruth and Idgie. In the book, it is clear to me that, not only were they lovers, but that everyone in the town acknowleded and accepted this. This was hinted at a tiny bit in the film, and I'm surprised that it wasn't a bigger issue in the film, considering the weight it has in the books. In any case, I thought it was a lovely message of acceptance and love. Unsurprisingly, a story set in this period in the southern U.S. is likely to deal with racial issues, and I enjoyed the relationships, love and loyalty between many of the black and white characters, as well. And this is, as it turns out, integral to the central "mystery" of the book, but to go into more detail here would be a fairly major spoiler.
So, I enjoyed this book and would recommend. (Library book)