February 26, 2011

Tomato Girl by Jayne Pupek

Title:  Tomato Girl
Author:  Jayne Pupek
Format:  HC
Pages:  298
Genre:  Fiction
Publisher:  Algonquin, 2008
ISBN-13:  978-1565124721
Series:  Stand Alone

Favorite Quote:  I'm the girl they found standing on the table.  The girl who traced the cracks in the wall with her mother's blood.

Synopsis (Amazon):  For eleven-year-old Ellie Sanders, her father has always been the rock that she could cling to when her mother's emotional troubles became too frightening. But when he comes under the thrall of the pretty teenager who raises vegetables and tomatoes for sale at the general store that he runs, Ellie sees her security slowly slipping away. Now she must be witness and warden to her mother's gradual slide into madness.

Told from Ellie's point of view, Tomato Girl takes the reader into the soul of a terrified young girl clinging desperately to childhood while being forced into adulthood years before she is ready. To save herself, she creates a secret world, a place in which her mother gets well, her father returns to being the man he was, and the Tomato Girl is banished forever.

Review:  I decided a change of pace was in order.  And, I certainly found one.  This book is disturbing, shocking, and heart-wrenching.  To watch Ellie struggle to live the shadowy, terrifying life she's forced to live because of the disappearance of her father is almost too difficult to bear.  Her mother has always been disturbed, but after her husband's leave taking, she turns completely insane.  Towards the end, as the facade of normalcy begins to completely falter, I almost wished the book to be over and done with.  Sharing in Ellie's nightmare existence was almost too much for me.  I wish the book had told whether Ellie ever came to terms with her childhood and whether she was able to lead any kind of normal life, although the suggestion at the very end is that she is about to get the help she needs, so one is left hoping.

This is not my usual choice of reading material, but I had heard it was an incredible story, a book that wouldn't soon be forgotten.  That is certainly true.  I'm just not certain I want to remember Baby Tom, Jellybean, and all the other awful, sad details, but I have a suspicion I won't ever forget Ellie's tragic tale.

Rating:  4 / 5

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