Nov 2, 2008

The Sunday Salon: Tomato Girl - A Book Review

This Sunday I wanted to do something a little different. I’d like to share my review of an amazing book, TOMATO GIRL by Jayne Pupek. I’d like to thank Jayne for sending me the book and for being my special guest blogger tomorrow on Books & Cooks.

It was Spring in the late 1960’s and 11 year old Ellie Sanders should’ve been doing what other kids her age were doing - coloring Easter eggs and getting ready for the Easter Bunny. But Ellie’s life was different than most kids. She had to keep an eye on her Mama and make sure people didn’t notice the strange things she did or see her in her sad moods. And that took a lot of Ellie’s time.

Things changed when the tomato girl came to stay in their home after her Mama had her accident on the cellar stairs. She was supposed to be there to help out, but it didn’t take Ellie long to figure out what was really going on. Before Tess came, it was just Ellie, her Mama and Daddy and even though they weren’t exactly a normal family, it was ok because Ellie knew her father was there to make sure things were alright.
Soon after her Daddy invited Tess to move in, things quickly got worse for Ellie. As events unfolded, she was left to handle situations that any adult would have trouble dealing with, forcing her to stray from her innocence as a child and be on the edge of adulthood, but without the maturity of knowing how to handle things.

TOMATO GIRL by Jayne Pupek was one of the hardest books for me to get through, but it’s also my favorite book this year. It will pull at your heart, make you smile, choke you up and make you cry, but mostly it will make you mad. It’s one of those books that breaks your heart, but you can’t quit reading.

The story is told in it’s entirety by Ellie Sanders, who you will immediately fall in love with. Ms. Pupek is very consistent with her characters and develops them perfectly. Her storytelling is compelling and believable. Even though the subject matter is disturbing, and may not appeal to everyone, I applaud Jayne Pupek for her daring courage in this, her debut novel.
What I liked most about this book is the innocence of Ellie and the constant struggle for her to remain unscathed by what is happening around her that she has no control over. Along with Ellie, my other favorite character was Clara, the ‘colored’ woman who comes into Ellie’s life at just the right time. All of the characters of TOMATO GIRL are unique and will stay with me for awhile, but I will never forget Ellie, the strong little girl who suffered so much loss, and wanted nothing more than to have a normal life.

The publisher, Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill is quickly becoming a favorite of mine. They’ve published such books as MUDBOUND, WATER FOR ELEPHANTS and the forthcoming THE MUSIC TEACHER, which is sure to be a success as well. They have wonderful writers of southern literature that I’m especially fond of.

TOMATO GIRL is the kind of book that will stir up a lot of emotions that people will be talking about long after they’ve read it. Some will love it and some may not, but they will always remember it. For those reasons, it would make the perfect choice for any book club.
Please come back tomorrow when Jayne Pupek will be my special guest and she will be talking about her experience in becoming a published author and how the promotional side of writing has been for her. I also encourage you to check out Jayne Pupek’s Blog to learn more about this gifted writer and what she’s working on now.

To read a interesting interview with Jayne Pupek, visit Emma Larkins blog. Emma is a fellow book lover, blogger and writer, who features interviews with authors, editors and publishers each Friday. The book trailer for TOMATO GIRL is also available and you can watch it by clicking here.

For additional reviews visit: Caribousmom, Breaking the Spine and Bibliolatry

Author: Jayne Pupek
Publisher: Algonquin Books
Date Published: September 2008
Pages: 298
Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars


  1. I loved this book, too.

  2. Nice review! I'll look forward to Jayne's post on your blog :) Thanks for the link to my review!

  3. Great review! This does sound like a book well worth reading.

  4. You're right...this one stays with you a long time. Thanks for including the link to my site!

  5. great review! it sounds like an emotional read.
    'It’s one of those books that breaks your heart, but you can’t quit reading.' I felt like that about Barbara Kingslover's 'The Poisonwood Bible'

  6. That sounds like a great book; I look forward to the author's post tomorrow.


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