Thursday, January 21, 2010

Book Review: Fannie Flagg, Daisy Fay and the Miracle Man

Author: Fannie Flag
Publisher/Year: Warner Books, 1992

Before Fannie Flagg hit it big with her now classic Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Café, she released a debut novel most worthy of the same amount of attention. Originally published under the title Coming Attractions, Daisy Fay and the Miracle Man tells the story of one Daisy Fay Harper. The novel proceeds in diary form, allowing the reader insight into the confused yet assured mind of a very precocious young Southern Belle in the making.

Daisy Fay is growing up in the Gulf Coast’s Shell Beach during the 1950s thanks to one of her father’s ‘get rich quick’ schemes. Her family moves there to run an ice cream shop, a proposition that starts out fine but eventually ends up in disaster. Her upbringing is complicated by the troubles between her alcoholic father and emotionally-nervous mother. Their marriage eventually breaks down and Daisy’s mother moves away, leaving Daisy to be raised by her unreliable father and his best friend Jimmy.

During her youth, Daisy gets caught up in her father’s numerous financial schemes. One of these schemes includes Daisy pretending to be dead and then miraculously brought back to life by a local charlatan preacher. This, as well as all the other plans, does not result in the big payoff desired, and both father and daughter must learn to make do.

One of Flagg’s greatest talents lies in the caricature-like characters she draws to create the sub-stories. You have Jimmy, an alcoholic crop-duster whose fixation on exacting revenge when required is as obvious as his fixation on the adult Daisy is subtle. Then there is Mrs. Dot, former debutante and leader of the local Jr. Debutante club of which Daisy is forced to become a member. And there is Mr. Cecil, a hat and costume designer at the playhouse where Daisy gets her first taste of stage stardom. All of these characters combine to create a sympathetic, supportive, and hilarious environment in which Daisy learns about who she is and what life is all about.

Daisy Fay and the Miracle Man is one of the funniest and most sincere coming-of-age stories out there. The misadventures of Daisy are a laugh out loud riot, and the sentimentality with which Flagg writes about these events makes Daisy’s life all that much more humorous and touching. What an immense pleasure it is to know Daisy Fay Harper, if only for a short, vivid time.

No comments:

Post a Comment