Margaret (Maggie) Fortenberry – who is in her 60s, I guess – has been a Miss Alabama and narrowly missed winning the Miss America pageant. All those who know her from her beauty pageant days remember not only how gorgeous she looked, but also her perfect manners, compassion and charm. Maggie is indeed a sweet and gentle woman, who cannot be rude to anyone, not even to her worst enemy.
With no great talents to speak of – except being able to fold napkins in hundreds of ways, and being able to wear the same outfit in a number of different ways – Maggie was just about to take up a humdrum administrative job, a few years after the pageant, when Hazel Whisenknott, real estate genius, saved her. Maggie landed a position as real estate agent in Hazel’s office, and that is where she stayed till the evening of her life. Maggie is proud of Alabama, glad she met Hazel and her best friend Brenda, but she is unable to think of reasons enough to live the life she is living. Hazel’s death a few years ago has added to her sense of ‘Life is OK, but not great.’
Maggie – after careful consideration – has arrived at the perfect plan to end her life. She has everything planned to the minutest detail, and she plans to go about it very secretively. However, destiny has something else in store for her. I Still Dream About You is Maggie’s story, her sinister plan and what happens when she goes about executing it.
I must say I quite enjoyed the book. It is typical Fannie Flagg material – quirky, eccentric characters and unbelievable incidents – but you fall in love with the story all the same. I think she is a genius writer, and has a flair for telling the life stories of people. Flagg’s trademark narration is at its best in I Still Dream About You.
The book, in fact, begins with Maggie’s suicide plan and her life story is told in flashbacks throughout. The wonderful part is that, in spite of being centred around such a dark and dreary plot, the book is not depressing. Rather, it is full of humour and Southern charm – Fannie Flagg style. The tone of the book is, surprisingly, very light in spite of such a dark plot.
I loved the experience of reading this immensely readable book. I loved the characters that Flagg has created – the charming Maggie who is much too polite for her own good, the overweight black Brenda who is struggling to lose weight, the three-and-a-half-foot tall real estate agent Hazel, and the administrative in-charge Ethel, who is so fond of the colour purple that she has purple hair and always wears purple clothes. I loved the way the author makes you think of issues like racial discrimination and business ethics in oh-so-subtle ways. I loved the little mystery in the middle of the book – I couldn’t solve it till the very end.
The first half of the book is a little slow, but gripping nonetheless. The book picks up speed after the mystery enters, and then it gets even more un-put-down-able. I was not much enamoured with Flagg’s Fried Green Tomatoes At The Whistle Stop Cafe, but I warmed up to her writing later in Standing In The Rainbow. Now, with I Still Dream About You, I am in love with her writing style – quirky characters and all! I can’t wait to read her other books.
I would totally recommend this book to everyone. If you are looking for an easy read, which is funny yet makes you think, which is different from the run-of-the-mill books, this one is for you!