197 . Tomato Red by Daniel Woodrell

Tomato Red by Daniel Woodrell

Rating: (4/5)

(US) - (Canada) - (Kindle)

1998, Plume/Penguin, 225 pgs
Current Publisher: Back Bay Books

Age: 18+

"In the Ozarks, what you are is where you are born. If you're born in Venus Holler, you're not much. For Jamalee Merridew, her hair tomato red with rage and ambition, Venus Holler just won't cut it. Jamalee sees her brother Jason, blessed with drop-dead gorgeous looks and the local object of female obsession, as her ticket out of town. But Jason may just be gay, and in the hills and hollows of the Ozarks that is the most dangerous and courageous thing a man could be.
Enter Sammy Barlach, a loser ex-con passing through a tired nowhere on the way to a fresher nowhere. Jamalee thinks Sammy is just the kind of muscle she and Jason need."

Borrowed a copy through Inter-Library Loan.

Daniel Woodrell's Ozark novel's are masterpieces of literature.  Beautifully written with language that keeps the reader spellbound.  Having read a few other of his Ozark novels, I found this one not quite as good, hence the 4 star rating, but still very, very good.  Tomato Red differs in that there is a sort-of happy ending, even if it is bittersweet and doesn't include everyone.  It is a short book at just over 200 pages but as usual, Woodrell manages to fully flesh out the four main characters: Bev, the "whore", her two children 17yo gay Jason and slightly older sister Jamalee who wants to be rich and everything a Venus Holler resident is not.  Along comes Sammy Barlach, drifter, petty felon, and all round loser who is taken right into being one of the family and maybe he will be the one who finally helps the family to more than just "dream" the impossible dream.  But tradgedy strikes, someone is killed and now is the time for the future to be dashed or reclaimed.  A sad tale of poverty and those looking only to be loved.  Circumstances cause their downfall, not the past prejudices as to who they are hooker, homosexual, unrealistic dreamer, and petty felon.  These are not even an issue when they make the biggest mistake of their lives and one of them has to brutally pay the price for it.  A dark tale full of eccentric characters and even though the family is unique I found Sammy to be my favourite character as to what drove him to have the desire to be a part of and protector of this quirky, dysfunctional family.


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