Monday, November 11, 2013

Welcome to the World, Baby Girl!

1998, 1999 Ballantine edition
Fannie Flagg
Welcome to the World, Baby Girl!
Probably bought new for $7.50
Worn paperback

This isn't as good as Flagg's '80s novels, although, like Fried Green Tomatoes, its timeline jumps around.  I was wrong though that there are no timeline errors in this book.  As someone pointed out on Amazon, there's an 87-year-old woman who gives birth.  And there's an elderly woman (mother-in-law of a 50-year-old) who looks back in 1948 to the 1904 World's Fair, when she was a "small child."  

That's not the main problem with the book.  There are several much more serious issues.  One is that the main character, Dena, is not terribly sympathetic, albeit more likable than Rachel in Rachel's Holiday.  Dena is an alcoholic and a workaholic, emotionally shut down after her mother's abandonment of her.  For some reason, Dena's psychiatrist Gerry falls in love with her, and he spends most of the novel pining for her, which gets annoying.  I also didn't really care about the plot of how far Dena will go along with the trend towards network-news tabloidization.  (Think Hard Copy '70s style.)

The main person responsible for this trend is as ugly physically as he is morally, as is his female assistant.  And the black woman who ruins the life of Dena's uncle to the point that he kills her is, according to a policeman, "so ugly I'm surprised somebody didn't kill her sooner."  Dena and her mother are of course gorgeous.

I did like Dena's eccentric relatives and equally nutty best friend Sookie.  I also wished that the "surprise" plot of Dena's mother being black (well, one-sixteenth) had been incorporated early on, rather than used for shock value, not all that different from a tabloid, now that I think of it.  The stuff with the Neighbor Dorothy radio show was good, reminding me of the little newspapers in Flagg's earlier novels.  If she had instead set the book in the 1940s entirely, or just had Dena be burnt out from work and go back to her hometown to hear these stories, it would've been a much better novel.

We'll see if Flagg's novels each being a notch worse than the previous one continues, when we get to Standing in the Rainbow, a sequel to Welcome, in 2002....

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