Friday, May 16, 2008
Tomato Girl Reviewed by Publishers Weekly
The absorbing, unsettling debut from Pupek centers on 11-year-old Ellie Sanders, who has already seen a lot of heartache in her short, rural mid-20th-century Virginia childhood. Her beautiful but troubled mother, Julia, who today would probably be diagnosed as bipolar, has frequent outbursts necessitating restraints and horse tranquilizers, administered by Ellie's father, Rupert. When a pregnant Julia suffers a bad fall, Rupert uses the incident to bring home more trouble, in the form of Tess, the teenage "tomato girl" who supplies his general store with home-grown produce. Intended as a caretaker for Julia and Ellie (and a bedmate for himself), Tess, who has troubles of her own, instead initiates a series of increasingly horrific events that leaves the family irreversibly altered. Issues of racial and religious intolerance are touched on lightly, but the real focus of this accomplished debut is the fatalistic accounting of the events engulfing Ellie. Although Ellie's voice is not always consistent with her youth, she's an effective narrator whose storytelling naïveté nicely underscores her innocence. (Aug.)
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