Daisy Fay and the Miracle Man

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In Fannie Flagg’s high-spirited first novel, we meet Daisy Fay Harper in the spring of 1952, where she’s “not doing much except sitting around waiting for the sixth grade.” When she leaves Shell Beach, Mississippi, in September 1959, she is packed up and ready for the Miss America Pageant, vowing “I won’t come back until I’m somebody.” But in our hearts she already is.

Sassy and irreverent from the get-go, Daisy Fay takes us on a rollicking journey through her formative years on the Gulf Coast of Mississippi. There, at The End of the Road of the South, the family malt shop freezer holds unspeakable things, society maven Mrs. Dot hosts Junior Debutante meetings and shares inspired thoughts for the week (such as “sincerity is as valuable as radium”), and Daisy Fay’s Daddy hatches a quick-cash scheme that involves resurrecting his daughter from the dead in a carefully orchestrated miracle. Along the way, Daisy Fay does a lot of growing up, emerging as one of the most hilarious, appealing, and prized characters in modern fiction.

Praise

“A hilarious, endearing novel.”
–Los Angeles Times

“SHEER UNBEATABLE ENTERTAINMENT.”
–Cosmopolitan

“UNFORGETTABLE AND IRRESISTIBLE.”
–Chattanooga Free Press

“SIDE-SPLITTINGLY FUNNY.”
–Cleveland Plain Dealer

Reader's Guide

1. The novel begins the day after Daisy Fay’s eleventh birthday and ends more than seven years later. How does the passage of time affect the way the story is told? Is the older Daisy Fay at the end very much like the child at the beginning?

2. In what ways is Daisy Fay a typical young girl and in what ways is she unique? What formative factors in her life stand out as unusual?

3. Do you agree that Daisy Fay’s parents should have separated? They both had their faults, but do you think more of the blame lies with one or the other?

4. Throughout the novel, Daisy Fay is drawn to people with certain characteristics, and she seems to form friendships effortlessly. How does she read people and assess their character? What is she seeking in her relationships, and does she always get it?

5. Why do you think the author uses the diary format for this novel?

6. Do you find any of the attitudes toward race that are expressed in the novel surprising? What is Daisy Fay’s attitude toward people she views as different from herself or from society at large?

7. Daisy Fay’s mother abandons her twice, once when she leaves Daisy’s father and a second time when she passes away. Do you think Daisy had a good relationship with her mother? In an era when women were predominantly homemakers, why do you think Daisy stayed with her father?

8. Do you think a similar story could have taken place in another part of the country? To what extent does the setting affect what happens in the novel?

9. A whole cast of colorful characters parade through the pages of the novel: Mrs. Dot, Peachy Wigham, Mr. Cecil . . .Can you think of someone like these characters in real life?

10. What is it about Kay Bob Benson that makes the reader love to hate her so much?

11. Why do you think Pickles and Daisy Fay stop being friends after Pickle gets pregnant? Do you think friendships can ever survive unscathed when people’s lives change dramatically?

12. What leads to Daisy Fay’s eventual success? What qualities does she have that make people warm up to her and want to help her?

13. For a large part of the novel Daisy Fay believes that her father and Jimmy Snow killed a man in order to keep her safe. To what extent do the people in Daisy Fay’s life protect her and to what extent do they act without regard to the impact their actions may have?

14. Who do you think is the “miracle man” in the title, and what miracle might he have performed?

15. While humor plays a large role in the novel, happy events are often tempered by tragedies that follow on their heels. How does Daisy Fay cope with unfortunate circumstances? Are Daisy’s attempts at humor always convincing?

16. In what way do you think Jimmy Snow was in love with Daisy Fay—like a daughter or more romantically? Do you
think he should have told her?

17. Do you think Daisy Fay’s future after the novel ends will be bright? Why or why not? What might be in store for her beyond the last page?

Q & A

A Conversation with Fannie Flagg

Q: Was there a particular person or event that inspired you to write Daisy Fay and the Miracle Man? Is any of it based on your experiences as a girl growing up in the South?

FF: Several things inspired me to write this book. While attending my first writer’s conference, I heard the great Ray Bradbury speak about all the books from his childhood that had inspired him to become a writer. Each and every book he mentioned were either adventure books or coming-of--age books about little boys, all written by men. As I sat there and thought about what I had read as a child, I realized there were very few books about little girls compared to so many books about little boys, it didn’t seem fair. Then it suddenly struck me that maybe I should try and write a book about a little girl! At the same conference we were told to write what you know and so yes, the book is indeed based on my experiences growing up in the South.

Q: How did you prepare yourself to get into the mind-set of a very young child? What challenges did you face making Daisy’s voice age throughout the novel?

FF: I had to go back in my mind and remember what it was like being a child and observing life without having the real story. I was very careful not to let the grown-up writing the story slip in and know or say things that Daisy would have no knowledge of. I was also writing the story on two levels. I was writing the story about what was really happening in the adult world and also writing what Daisy Fay thought was happening, which was not always the same thing.

Q: In both Daisy Fay and the Miracle Man and Standing in the Rainbow, you portray the 1950s. Is there something about that time period that you find particularly evocative?

FF: I suppose having been raised in the Fifties, I am particularly in love with that period and in reality they were pretty wonderful from the standpoint of a child. Not to be cliché, but it was a time of innocence and I suspect there is a part of me that would like to go back when we were not dealing with so many problems, like drugs, crime, and so much anger in the world. I remember never having to lock our doors or worry about our children. As I remember, America seemed like a safe place.

Q:
Who is your favorite character in this novel?

FF: I think Daisy Fay is my favorite character because she is such an optimist, even when things are terrible in her life. I would like to be more like her.

Q: Did you ever consider ending the book a different way? If so, what would have happened?

FF: No, the book ended the way I think her life would have gone up to that point. She is headed into the world believing she will be somebody someday.

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