I have been avoiding writing a review about the book Tomato Girl, by Jayne Pupek, because that would mean it was time for me to move on to something else. I did not want to move on. I love loved loved this book! I read it once (in one day), but then the following day I went back and placed sticky notes on at least 10 pages, so that I could reread some of the haunting passages again, and keep them for the future. Tomato Girl is about Ellie Sanders, an 11-year old girl growing up in a dysfunctional family. It is not an easy read, but I found myself anxiously waiting to turn each page. It is a heartbreaking account of mental illness and how it can tear apart a family. The prologue is only one page, and yet it made my jaw drop open.
FROM THE PROLOGUE.............Jars line my cellar shelves. Some are filled with fists of yellow-veined tomatoes. Others hold small onions and chopped leeks, white pearl onions floating in an opaque sea. Sometimes the light falls on a jar of boiled quail or the slick dark meat of a rabbit. There are unexpected moments when I see the slit of an infant's mouth, or the curl of a tiny fist behind the glass, and I run up the steps, back into the open light of sky...........I need to tell what I remember, I need to tell the story of a girl whose world unraveled like a torn scarf.............
What I loved best about this book (well there are so many things to love), but especially that the story is told through 11-year old Ellie's eyes, and how she views the world she lives in. There are loads of clues the reader will pick up on, but naive Ellie does not (at least not initially). Ellie is so genuine; you just want to sweep her away ......off to a normal childhood as she is faced with far too many difficult adult issues. The novel takes place in 1969 in a fictional town in Virginia, so there is a whole racial element to the story as well. I have read over 100 books in 2008 and this is my favorite so far. I thought it was brilliant how the heart of the story takes place during Easter week. There is a part when Ellie thinks about her "God Promises"....so touching. There are so many beautiful passages and analogies in this book. I do not want to quote any more as I don't want to spoil it for others. PLEASE read this book; it is one book that will resonate long after the final page has been turned.
RATING - 5/5 - COMPLETED - 9/19/08