TOMATO GIRL by Jayne Pupek

Pupek Today I finished Tomato Girl, by Jayne Pupek (discussed earlier on the blog here). Tomato Girl is a terribly sad story about Ellie Sanders, an 11-year old girl living a truly awful life in 1969 with her mentally ill mother, infatuated father, and a number of other adults who, while well-meaning, ultimately let her down. The book is told through Ellie’s eyes exclusively, and the narrative voice is that of a pre-adolescent girl.

From the second I started reading this book, I was hooked. Like I said, it’s very sad, as Ellie’s circumstances get worse and worse as the pages turn. Just when you think she couldn’t tolerate any more sadness or stress, something more devastating happens. I don’t want to give away too much of the plot, but initially, Ellie’s very unstable mother suffers a fall down the basement stairs and has to go to the hospital for trauma to her head. While she’s gone, Ellie’s father, who’s always been her great protector, invites a teenage girl to come and live with them to help with the household chores. (She’s the Tomato Girl of the title, so named because she grows tomatoes that she sells to Ellie’s father’s store). But Ellie’s father is in love with the Tomato Girl, and as she slowly displaces Ellie’s mother as his center of attention, Ellie watches her already precarious world start to unravel and her parents ultimately betray and abandon her.

While Ellie keeps in most of her emotions and hides the truly awful from everyone around her, Pupek’s readers get to inhabit Ellie’s mind and see the whole picture. The story is told simply, and quietly, but it is unbelievably powerful. I could not put this book down, and I am sad it’s over. I had a few quibbles with it – I didn’t love a subplot involving an older woman with supernatural powers who is the only person to care consistently for Ellie in the book. (I don’t like anything supernatural – it distracts me). But overall, this was an excellent read.

Tomato Girl‘s author, Jayne Pupek, emailed me after I posted my initial post about the book and graciously offered to send an autographed copy to an EDIWTB reader. If you’d like to be entered into the giveaway, please leave a comment here and make sure that I have your email address. I will pick a name on Saturday, November 15.

Highly recommended if you can tolerate sadness and grave injustice. I just re-read Jill’s review at Breaking the Spine – she and I were in complete agreement about this book. It’s amazing how similar our reviews are!

25 Comments

  • November 11, 2008 - 12:13 am | Permalink

    I would like to be entered in your giveaway.
    bookmark 60 at hotmail dot com.
    Thank you

  • November 11, 2008 - 12:34 am | Permalink

    No need to enter me, as I already have the book. Just wanted to say I enjoyed your review. I’ll be reading and reviewing this one next month. I can’t wait, as I’ve heard nothing but good things about this book.

  • November 11, 2008 - 2:54 am | Permalink

    I’ve read (and reviewed) the book, but I can’t resist an autographed copy!

  • November 11, 2008 - 3:06 am | Permalink

    Sounds interesting. I wrote it down in my book of books I’m interested in after the Breaking the Spine review!

  • November 11, 2008 - 5:49 am | Permalink

    I would love to have a copy of this book!

  • November 11, 2008 - 7:48 am | Permalink

    I would love to win a copy of this book, I have heard excellent reviews of it. I am in the UK though so I understand if it is too far for postage. My e-mail is theoctogenarianATymailDOTcom

  • November 11, 2008 - 8:37 am | Permalink

    Thanks for the link…we seem to be on the same page with books.
    And I agree with you on the supernatural element…that is usually a big turn-off for me.

  • November 11, 2008 - 8:38 am | Permalink

    Don’t enter me, I have the book, but I want you to know that I love your review.

  • Robin
    November 11, 2008 - 8:54 am | Permalink

    Your review has me hooked!

  • November 11, 2008 - 9:10 am | Permalink

    I would love to win this book, I have heard so many great things about it!

  • Sarah
    November 11, 2008 - 10:58 am | Permalink

    I would love to be entered in this give away, as it sounds like an excellent read. The plot sounds something like “She’s Come Undone” by Wally Lamb, but perhaps better written and higher brow? Thanks for entering me into the draw.

  • November 11, 2008 - 12:05 pm | Permalink

    Please enter me. The reviews for this are so good!

  • November 11, 2008 - 12:24 pm | Permalink

    Yep, I’d like to try it: chartroose at yahoo dot com.

  • November 11, 2008 - 12:54 pm | Permalink

    I LOVED this book. It was a tough subject, but it was so well done. Your review was great.
    Here is a link to my review.
    http://bibliophilebythesea.blogspot.com/2008/09/147-tomato-girl-jayne-pupek.html

  • Lindsay
    November 11, 2008 - 2:16 pm | Permalink

    I am so drawn in by your review. I would love a copy! – Thanks!

  • Michelle B
    November 11, 2008 - 4:32 pm | Permalink

    I’d love to win this book also – with winter fast approaching, I can’t wait to sit and read with a hot cup of tea.
    shell688 (at) aol (dot) com

  • November 12, 2008 - 9:09 am | Permalink

    The reviews of this have been great. As my book group members could tell you, it’s my kind of book. I’d love to have a copy for myself.

  • Gwendolyn B.
    November 12, 2008 - 11:04 am | Permalink

    I very much would like to read this book! Please enter me, and thank you for the chance!
    geebee.reads AT gmail DOT com

  • November 12, 2008 - 1:16 pm | Permalink

    This is in my December to-read pile. no need to enter me. Great review…and I posted your giveaway on my sidebar.

  • Wendy
    November 12, 2008 - 2:35 pm | Permalink

    Please enter my name in your giveaway. Thanks.

  • November 13, 2008 - 10:30 pm | Permalink

    No need to enter me, I just wanted to share my review of this amazing book. To all who haven’t read it: you won’t be disappointed.
    http://southerngal-lisa.blogspot.com/2008/11/sunday-salon-tomato-girl-book-review.html

  • November 14, 2008 - 11:53 am | Permalink

    I would love to win this book!
    akreese (at) hotmail (dot) com

  • amandasue
    November 14, 2008 - 1:13 pm | Permalink

    Indeed this book does sound sad, but it also sounds good. I’d like to be entered for it, thank you.
    unforgetable_dreamer_always AT hotmail DOT com

  • November 15, 2008 - 4:29 pm | Permalink

    Thanks so much to all who commented on this review. I enjoyed reading the other reviews that were posted as well. I’ll be choosing a name later today. Thanks, all!

  • November 28, 2008 - 8:03 pm | Permalink

    This book sounds really good. Looking forward to your review of We need to talk about Kevin because I can’t make up my mind about that one.

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