I absolutely loved the book, for more reasons than I can count. It’s a very unusual novel, with an unusual structure – six stories, with the first five told until the half-way point, each ending on a cliff-hanger. The last is told all the way through, then the book works backwards to the conclusions of the previous five stories. The stories are set in different times and places, and are different genres. All are connected, in more ways than one, in both overt and subtle ways.
One way Mitchell connects the stories is by having each subsequent main character experience the previous story in some form or forms. A journal, letters, a musical sextet, a mystery novel, a movie, testimony taken down by an archivist, an oral history–storytelling itself is one of the major ways the six sections of the book are brought together.
Each character is impacted by the stories they are told. It made me think about the power of storytelling as a theme of its own, and how some of my favorite movies are about characters whose lives are somehow touched and even changed by storytelling.
Of course, this has to be at the top of the list! The movie begins with a grandfather visiting his grandson, who is sick in bed with a cold. The grandson reluctantly agrees to let him read a book called The Princess Bride to him. The framing sequences of the grandfather and grandson are almost as delightful as the story itself, as the young boy is gradually reeled in by the power of the story he is listening to. One of my favorite things about the movie is how storytelling creates a bridge between generations.
This is such an underrated film. The cast of a space opera TV show called Galaxy Quest ends up on a space ship recreated from the TV show by aliens called Thermians. The Thermians have intercepted broadcasts of the show and don’t understand that it’s make believe. They call them “historical documents.” The actors have to pretend to be their characters to help the Thermians defeat an evil-doer named Sarris. The movie affectionately tweaks sci-fi fandom, while at the same time shows how even stories thought to be silly can inspire some to greatness.
Two men share a cell in a South American prison. One is a political activist in jail for revolutionary activities, the other has been convicted of a morals charge because he is gay. Molina, the gay man, tells Valentin, the activist, the plots of movies he likes. No matter what kind of movie it is, he weaves it into a romantic story, even a Nazi propaganda film. Molina confesses he always sees himself as the heroine in the stories he retells. The men bond over the stories and become friends. Molina believes he has found an opportunity to become the heroine in his real-life story. Here, story is used to escape more than to inspire, as well as to manipulate.
Evelyn is going through a mid-life crisis when she meets an elderly woman named Ninny Threadgoode at a nursing home. Ninny tells her the story of her relative Idgie Threadgoode and her relationship with a woman named Ruth in the Depression-era South. When Ruth runs away from her abusive husband, she and Idgie open the Whistle Stop Cafe. Listening to their adventures, Evelyn gains inspiration and is eventually able to overcome her depression and dissatisfaction with life. A funny, lovely movie about women gaining strength through friendship and fellowship.