Everyone’s hometown plays a special role. It’s a part of each person’s identity, and wherever they go, some fragment of home travels with them, tucked around a corner of their soul. Strangers may see the same place as a paradise or living hell but to to a native son or daughter, this spot is where they started to become the person they are today. That tie never completely loses its grip and while a lot of us leave our hometowns, some of us eventually go home. The rest return in their dreams.
That’s the theme of Fannie Flagg’s 2011 novel, I Still Dream of You. On the surface, it’s a story of twentieth-century women adapting to twenty-first century demands. Brenda’s jumped into real estate work and politics with both feet, trying to improve the City of Birmingham and lose weight without losing her Krispy Kremes. Brenda’s friend Maggie isn’t adjusting as well. Maggie was raised to be a lady, considerate and kind but her inbred courtesy is often undercut by other, unprincipled real-estate agents. Like her beloved old homes on Red Mountain, Maggie is in danger of being destroyed by opportunists driven by the almighty dollar. The friendship between Brenda and Maggie bring out the best in each other as they protect and develop the good parts of life here, in Birmingham.
The worst of Birmingham made headlines around the world; Maggie never forgets this or glosses over that pain. Her sadness comes with realizing the Birmingham she knows, the city of trees with gracious streets, and caring, yard-proud neighbors is rarely remembered or cherished. Maggie will not and cannot deny her past: good and bad, Birmingham is her home. It’s also Fannie Flagg’s hometown and she writes of life there with unmistakable longing. In this town, a person can hear the church bells miles away and the Spring sun nurtures both smiles and flowers. No amount of stress can make the Warrior River run faster and nothing smells better than a box of locally grown peaches. This is Miss Flagg’s Birmingham, for better or worse; she and the town are bonded forever.
To learn from the bad times and cherish the good is what memory is all about. That’s something Maggie learns, along with life’s capacity to surprise you, when you least expect it. I Still Dream About You is a dream of a hopeful futures and a love song to the places that loved us long ago.