Tomato Girl

Pupek, Jayne. Tomato Girl. Chapel Hill: Algonquin Books, 2008.

What a beautifully written, tragic first book! The characters are so true to life and so compelling I was picturing them in a movie. It’s told in first person from the point of view of 11 year old Ellie. With the help of a series of seamless recollections Ellie recounts her life with a mentally ill mother and a cheating father. Ellie’s father is taken with, and soon overcome by, a teenage girl who delivers tomatoes to the store he manages. From the moment the “tomato girl” comes into Ellie’s life every day is stacked with another unbelievable tragedy, a level of sadness leading to horror much deeper than the one before. It is hard to imagine the amount of pain this child has to endure at such a tender age. Pupek writes with sentences full of foreshadowing. They hang heavy like dark clouds, bloated with the storm that will erupt any minute.
My only complaint is absence of addressing molestation. Ellie is “grabbed” by boy hard enough to leave a bruise. At the same time her period has started (her first). When Sherrif Rhodes discovers the blood, and Ellie tells him of the rough boy, the Sheriff doesn’t take Ellie to a hospital to be examined by a real doctor. She is brought to a black woman who practices witchcraft. Because the story is set in the late 60’s and racism is hinted at I was surprised Sherriff Rhodes would bring a child to her rather than the local hospital. This is the only part I wish was explained better.

ps~ there are a ton of those “gotcha” sentences that I love so much. Too many to mention.


One Comment on “Tomato Girl”

  1. jill says:

    Tragic was the word I was compelled to use as well…just reviewed it.

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