Tomato Girl – Jayne Pupek

Tomato Girl – Jayne Pupek

“Get me a book, will you?” I asked Steve about a week ago, as he prepared for a jaunt to the library. “I’m running out of things to read.”

So he came home with Tomato Girl. “It looked like something you’d read,” he said by way of explanation. Actually, it didn’t really, but that’s fine. No complaints on my end. Sometimes one gets in a reading rut; sometimes one needs something a little more unsettling.

Which is what Publisher’s Weekly says about it on the back cover, saying that it’s an accomplished debut. And the author bio says she’s published in literary journals and has written a book of poetry.

The reason that I’m telling you all this is because I want you to know that I was absolutely fair. I was prepared to like this novel. I opened its covers with a completely open mind. And sadly, nothing prepared me for its sheer, unutterable terribleness. It was beyond bad. And the really sad thing was that it wasn’t like trashy novel bad, which is just bad writing plain and simple and you harrumph about the crap that gets published these days, but it was a mass market paperback so who really cares? No, it was more like college fiction workshop bad, where everyone thinks they are saying profound new things in beautiful new ways, but it would be more enojoyable to hear a tortured cat scream for three hours straight. (If you’re wondering where that piece of randomness came from, chalk it up to the feral cats on the prowl last night.)

Enough said.

*Update: I feel a little guilty for posting that review, so I feel the need to mention that she has samples of her poetry on her site; they are MUCH better than this novel.

5 thoughts on “Tomato Girl – Jayne Pupek

  1. Thank YOU for saying it! Man, did I hate this book. Hated it hated it hated it. And then felt terrible for hating it because I think it was published by Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill, and they usually publish some good stuff. But not this one. Bleah.

  2. No no no, thank YOU for agreeing. Because I posted this, and then with a self-satisfied smirk went searching for like-minded folks on the book blogs.

    And was stunned to find only glowing reviews. I mean, The Toss of a Lemon had more bad reviews, and that was beautifully written. So maybe the better the book is, the more people are jealous, and the more they write terrible reviews? Or maybe, the better the book, the more erudite its audience and the better able to critique? This at risk of sounding like a total snot, of course, but then again, when do I shy away from THAT?

    It is strange that Algonquin published it, isn’t it?

  3. Oh, god, Zia, the reviewers. Don’t depend on anything the reviewers say. The reviewers are either not reading the books they’re reviewing (who would have the time, really, for what they get paid?), repeating what everyone else says (“compelling prose,” “unflinching prose”), or operating on the principle that it’s their job to give everything a great review to sell more books and encourage reading. Or, like at the publications The Believer and Booklist, they don’t publish “negative” reviewers, which is, only in my opinion, mind you, the dumbest policy ever.

    This book sucked, and don’t let anyone tell you any differently. I support the author’s write to write schleck, I’m sure there’s readers out there who will appreciate the book, but to me it read like a cheap imitation of “The Secret Life of Bees,” which, I would guess, was the point, as that book was very popular.

    Goodness. Evidently I have some anger issues. Mainly I wanted to say: you’re not alone, sister.

  4. Oh I agree. This was just bad, and there’s nothing subjective about it. I guess I was just surprised that every review glowed. Of course, you’re right–they all said the same thing and I believe one thanked the author for the advance reading copy …

    I had no idea that some publications banned negative reviews. So the point would be … what, precisely? Actually, come to think of it, this is one of my main beefs with a lot of book blogs (aside from the reviews of an article about a review of a novel): There are a whole lot of people who will tell you how you should feel about a book, but not how they feel.

    Hmmph. Apparently I have anger issues too.

    Oh, and of course your own blog is exempted (because otherwise I could never say this), as is Becky’s and a bunch of other people I have been following over the years. But it’s a fairly short list, I confess.

  5. Boy am I glad to find your review! I was also less than impressed with this. Not only was the subject matter a hopeless trainwreck, I was never really pulled into the story or moved, just disgusted.

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