Sunday, September 14, 2008

Review: Tomato Girl

"I need to tell what I remember. I need to tell the story of a girl whose world unraveled like a torn scarf..."

In Tomato Girl, author Jayne Pupek explores the story of a girl who is caught between the issues of her age and those far beyond her years.

For a middle-school girl, Ellie Sanders has a full plate and a heavy load.

During her life, she and her father have dealt with her mother's mental illness together, balancing her mood swings and erratic behavior as a united front. But, in one instant, things take a turn for Ellie.

Her mother takes an accidental fall down the basement stairs when alone in the house one day. Meanwhile, her father, the manager of the town's grocery, has fallen in love with Tess, the store's "tomato girl," an epileptic, motherless young woman, with a knack for growing tomatoes, who lives with her abusive father.

Upon Ellie's mother's hospitalization, her father brings Tess into their home to live to presumably help out during the aftermath of the fall. Tess moves in like a hurricane, arranging the house as her own and demanding Ellie's father's undivided attention.

At once, Ellie loses her father as a teammate in helping with her mother and keeping the household together, and she is left to fend for herself, especially when her mother returns home worse than ever.

In a word, this book is Tragic (capital T intended). It seems that Ellie meets tragedy at every turn, as her heart is broken again and again during this novel. Just when it seems that the weight on her shoulders couldn't get any heavier, it does, and the burden is unimaginable.

That said, the book is also utterly compelling. On one hand, I almost hesitate to recommend it to others to read, as it's dark...and it gets darker and darker. So, be warned. But, I really want to recommend it, as the writing is amazing, especially for a debut novel, and the story is beyond engaging. I think I read this book in one single breath.

(Side note...I do think that the book's whimsical cover belies its serious nature.)

I know that several bloggers have this on their list, so I'll be interested in reading other reviews.


Becca said...

I hadn't heard of this book, but it sounds really great. I'm going to add it to my list. Thanks!

Anonymous said...

You're right - this is a compelling book. I think Ellie's narration adds so much to the story.

Anna said...

It sounds like a great read. I like dark books, though I'm not sure what that says about me. ;)

--Anna (Diary of an Eccentric)

Alice Osborn said...

Dear Jill,
Great review of Tomato Girl and I agree with you about the cover perhaps misleading the reader. I also applaud Pupek for not giving us a perfect ending.


Unknown said...

I was on the fence with this one, but after reading your great review, I'm adding it to the ever-growing pile!

Dawn @ sheIsTooFondOfBooks said...

I keep saying I'll add this to my wish list ... I'm really adding it, right now! Great review!