Tomato Girl by Jayne Pupek is another of my favorite books this year. It is set in the South in the 60’s and the main focus of the story is eleven year old Ellie who is living a life most of us can’t even imagine. Her mother Julia is mentally ill and Ellie is forced to grow up and be an adult far too soon in her life. Ellie has spent her young life always watching her mama to make sure nobody else notices the strange things she does or happens to see her in one of her spells. Ellie is a pro at making things seem ok, she goes out of her way to appear normal and ultimately that is all she wants-a normal life and a normal family.
The story takes off when Ellie’s mom has an accident and falls down the stairs-something for which Ellie blames herself. Her mother ends up in the hosptial for a few days and in those few days Ellie’s father Rupert brings home Tess-the Tomato Girl named so because she grows and sells tomatoes to Rupert at the store he manages. Tess is there to supposedly help out but there is much more going on to that story than meets the eye at first. From this point on things just spiral further and further downward for Ellie as her mother’s fall into madness escalates.
This is a very powerful story and not the easiest to read. It is dark I guess you could say. For me, that’s ok. It’s hard to explain a book such as this and why I like it but I can read difficult books and enjoy them for the story that is being told. I found myself smiling at times and crying at others. It kept me reading because truthfully I found it so hard to believe that a child should have to live through a life like this and yet I know these things happen to many. Ellie was forced into handling situations no child should ever have to deal with and was even worse when she was left alone with her mother. I was grateful she had a friend in Mary Roberts and later Clara-the magic lady.
Despite the difficult subject matter, this novel is beautifully written. The author brings these characters to life and you feel this is such a real world you’re thrown into while reading this novel. I loved Ellie, she is such an endearing character that you can’t help but feel her pain and want her to be able to realize her hopes and dreams. My heart broke reading this book yet I’m so glad to have been able to share in this story.
A passage that to me shows us a glimpse into Ellie’s life…
- ‘Without the chalk door, I might tell Miss Cassidy about all the sad things that have split my heart into pieces. I might tell her about all the bad dreams and voices, or even spill secrets I’d promised to keep. I’m afraid of how much that will hurt, afraid of what it may cost. But I know Clara is right. I am tired of carrying so many dark and broken things inside me. I can never do magic with so many fears, hurts, and secrets. They weigh down my heart like a stone.’ —pg 298
I know I will not soon forget this story-I don’t think anyone could. I would love to know what happens to Ellie in the future and while this story was a sad one, it thankfully ends on a positive note and for that I am glad. This is a great debut novel by Jayne Pupek and I look forward to reading her next novel. You can visit Jayne Pupek’s site here and you can purchase this book here in the US and here in Canada.
I loved this book, too!
Marvin D. Wilson says
Sounds wonderful, especially for a – debut novel? Really? The p. 298 excerpt was gripping and well written.
I think you did a great job explaining it, Dar. It sounds powerful and moving and bittersweet.
Oh no – another book to add to my Amazon wish list! Sounds great!
This is in my tbr pile for next month and I can’t wait to read it. Though all these reviews about how hard it is to read makes me nervous.
Wonderful review, this will be making it’s way to my TBR for sure.
Like so many others, I really want to read this book too! Thanks for the great review.
Dar – I just gave you an award – and a meme goes along with it. Come over to claim it.
This sounds so good, I’ve heard many good things about it.
Great review 🙂
Its always good when a book can make you both smile and cry.
I have this on my wish list.
OHHH, I can't wait to read this book! I have been wanting it for a while now & now I really want it!!!
By the way, I have an award for you on my blog, come check it out…
Oh, this is one I want to read. I’m so glad to read that you enjoyed it.
Ire ad so many reviews of this book. I totally understand that sometimes a book could be dark but still you like it for some reasons.
I will put it into my lust-list because I won’t be getting really soon.
I’ve heard so much about this book. Loved your review Dar – now added to my wishlist.
I’ve been looking forward to your review of this one, Dar.
I can read ‘dark’ books too and still enjoy the story, so that wouldn’t bother me.
It sounds fantastic.
Thanks for the great review.
This is my favorite book of 2008. Although dark, I love the writing and I love Ellie. Great review Dar!
Red lady-Bonnie says
Dar-I have this book TBR and can’t wait to read it.
I’ve heard good things about this one so far, and I know what you mean about liking darker books with tougher material. Kind of weird and difficult to explain, but I’m right there with you!!
Hi there…just not catching up on all the posts I missed over the holiday.
I have not read this book yet but I get what you are saying about difficult subject matter. I do okay with it as well if it is written in a sensitive way and I feel as if the writing does justice to the characters.
I had a read a review of this book but was unsure if I would like it. Your review made me more interested in it so I’ve added it to my TBR list. Thanks!
I really really want to read this one Dar. Great post.
Very much enjoyed your review, thanks for this Dar. I’ll put it on my tbr list in hopes of reading next year…
I read this over the weekend and I LOVED IT! I hope to have my review up in the next day or so.
What a phenomenal book – bittersweet and dark at times, but written with sensitivity and hope.
Sorry folks,somehow I forgot to answer comments-yikes…
Kathy, it was a really good story -one you just don’t forget.
Marvin, it is amazing how many great debut novels are out there. I’ve been lucky to read quite a few this year.
Nymeth, great words to describe this novel. Sometimes it’s hard to describe how you can like a book that has a difficult story line.
Lynne, Joanne, Wanda, lol-those lists just keep getting longer.
Serena, I’m anxious to see what you’ll think of this one.
Karen, thanks 🙂
Naida, as you know I do like a book that brings out strong emotions. I think this one is definitely one of those.
Julie, Joy, Toni, I’ll be having a giveaway for this one soon so stay tuned.
Veens-your lust list-that just cracks me up!
Luanne, thanks 🙂
Shana, I really think you’d like this one too.
Lisa, thanks. Ellie is a character that just grabs your heart and doesn’t let go. It’s one of my favorites of this year for sure.
Bonnie, I’d be interested in your review on this one. I’ll be watching for it.
Trish, I know you know what I mean. I’ve heard you try to explain being able to read something dark and yet really liking it.
Ti, well said. I think that’s great how you said if it’s written in a sensitive way-I think this one is.
Sam, this one is hard to say. You know I may love it and someone else may not but so far all of the reviews I’ve read have been positive.
I don’t mind dark books. Sometimes light and fluffy just doesn’t do it for me. This one is in my TBR pile, and after reading your review, I’m tempted to break into it right now. I have a couple other books to read first, though.
Diary of an Eccentric
Anna, it’s a fast read once you do get into it. I really like a variety in what I read from light and easy to the darker ones.
You know somehow comments sneak in between where I’ve already answered. How does that happen I wonder-lol. Anyhoooooooooo…
Toni, I do think you’d like this one.
Dawn great description of the book. I’ll have to check if your review is up yet. I’m a bit behind on things.
I was very tempted to enter your giveaway for this one but my library has a copy that I can borrow. Besides, I’ve been so lucky lately that if I were to win anymore I’d start to feel greedy!