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Tomato Red by Daniel Woodrell
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Tomato Red (original 1998; edition 1998)

by Daniel Woodrell

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3181434,897 (3.74)40
Member:Devlindusty
Title:Tomato Red
Authors:Daniel Woodrell
Info:Henry Holt and Co. (1998), Edition: 1st, Hardcover, 240 pages
Collections:Your library
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Tomato Red by Daniel Woodrell (1998)

  1. 10
    The Devil All the Time by Donald Ray Pollock (RidgewayGirl)
    RidgewayGirl: Another Noirish crime novel set in Appalachia.
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Showing 1-5 of 13 (next | show all)
If you are from "the wrong side of the tracks" can you ever realize your dream of becoming something more than poor white trash? Jamalee has dreams of rising above her social status. At nineteen, she lives with her younger, beautiful, gay brother; their prostitute mother lives next door. Sammy Barlach, a 24-year-old drifter looking for people to belong to comes into their lives and becomes part of the plan.

This is a melancholy story; it's hard to believe that life holds any major promise for Jamalee and her family. The writing is masterful; it really contributes to the mood of the story. And the ending felt like a punch in the stomach. ( )
  LynnB | Dec 24, 2014 |
When a teenage boy is described as "the prettiest boy in the Ozarks", you know bad things will happen. Sure enough, they do. The whole sad story is narrated by Sammy Barlach, a twenty-four year old drifter and ex con from Arkansas, now at loose ends in West Table, Missouri.

Sammy broke into a mansion one night and passed out after consuming too much vodka. Jamalee Merridew and her younger brother Jason found him when they broke into the same mansion. It seems Jamalee's job as a hair stylist gave her all kinds of information about what houses in town would be empty and when. Not having anywhere else to go, Sammy moved in with the pair. He was quickly smitten by their prostitute mother, who lived next door. What follows is the story of an inevitable tragedy and the immutable lesson that nobody cares, even when really bad things happen.

On the back of this edition, the publisher tells the reader, Tomato Red is a wild and exhilarating joyride of a novel...", one that is "... written at a fever pitch, with a bluesy beat and a poet's touch". "Exhilarating" seems to be completely incorrect. There is a despair in this novel that comes from the fact that nothing will ever change for the residents of all the West Tables. There is a permanent underclass that nobody wants to hear about or talk about.

Bleakness is my preferred tone in fiction, but there was a wrong note here that I just can't place. Perhaps the narration was too breezy for the tale it told. Perhaps it read too much like a story wanting to be a script. Two of Woodrell's novels have been turned into films: Woe to Live On was made into Ang Lee's Ride with the Devil, and Winter's Bone] should become a classic. However, when it comes to writing about the people no one wants to see or know, I'd recommend skipping Woodrell and reading instead Russell Banks, Pete Dexter or Denis Johnson.
  SassyLassy | Aug 21, 2014 |
Started well and sucked me in. Loved the characters and the story line, but was disappointed with the ending. Still, really enjoy the way Woodrell turns a phrase. Can't wait to read more by this author. Hopefully we haven't hear the last of Jamalee. ( )
  gkyoungen | Mar 24, 2014 |
Woodrell is such an amazing author he can make even the slowest moving story seem exciting (at least most of the time). I'm not sure what made me finish this book about four white trash self depreciating losers, except for how it was written. It's a story that I never would have cared to listen to, but somehow being told by Woodrell it doesn't seem like a complete waste of time. ( )
  beckylynn | Dec 9, 2013 |
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. ( )
  ElizaJane | Jul 3, 2013 |
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Epigraph
Anybody possessing analytical knowledge recognizes the fact that the world is full of actions performed by people exclusively to their detriment and without perceptible advantage, although their eyes were open.

—THEODOR REIK
It's not all peaches and cream.
But I haven't learned that yet.

—OIL CAN BOYD
Dedication
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You're no angel, you know how this stuff comes to happen: Friday is payday and it's been a gray day sogged by a slow ugly rain and you seek company in your gloom, and since you're fresh to West Table, Mo., and a new hand at the dog-food factory, your choices for company are narrow but you find some finally in a a trailer court on East Main, and the coed circle of bums gathered there spot you a beer, then a jug of tequila starts to rotate and the rain keeps comin' down with a miserable bluesy beat and there's two girls millin' about that probably can be had but they seem to like certain things and crank is one of those certain things, and a fistful of party straws tumble from a woven handbag somebody brung, the crank gets cut into lines, and the next time you notice the time it's three or four Sunday mornin' and you ain't slept since Thursday night and one of the girl voices, the one you want most and ain't had yet though her teeth are the size of shoe-peg corn and look like maybe they'd taste sort of sour, suggests something to do, 'cause with crank you want something, anything, to do, and this cajoling voice suggests we all rob this certain house on this certain street in that rich area where folks can afford to wallow in their vices and likely have a bunch of recreational dope stashed around the mansion and goin' to waste since an article in The Scroll said the rich people whisked off to France or some such on a noteworthy vacation.
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0452281946, Paperback)

The hero of Daniel Woodrell's Tomato Red is the most endearingly out-of-control loser you're likely to meet. Sammy Barlach looks like a person "who should in any circumstances be considered a suspect"; clerks follow him through the supermarket when he shops, and the police pull him over simply from habit. But in spite of his looks, Sammy only wants to be loved, even if it's just by "the bunch that would have me"--and in the hardscrabble world of West Table, Missouri, that's a bunch you wouldn't necessarily want to meet. The novel begins with a heady Methedrine rush, as Sammy celebrates payday by letting himself be talked into robbing a nearby mansion. Even when his newfound friends disappear as he's breaking in, he persists: "You might think I should've quit on the burglary right there, but I just love people, I guess, and didn't." The break-in leads Sammy into an unlikely alliance with the Merridew family: Jamalee and Jason and their mother Bev, a prostitute in the town's ironically named Venus Holler. Flame-haired Jamalee dreams constantly of a different kind of life, and she plans on using Jason's extraordinary beauty as her ticket out of West Table. Jason, however, seems to be shaping up as what Sammy calls "country queer"--which, as Sammy observes, "ain't the easiest walk to take amongst your throng of fellow humankind."

Unfortunately for Jamalee, Woodrell's Ozarks is a place that rewards ambition with disaster. Here as in his five previous "country noir" novels, Woodrell writes with a keen understanding of class and a barely contained sense of rage. The residents of West Table's trailer parks and shotgun shacks share Sammy's sense of limited possibilities. "I ain't shit! I ain't shit! shouts your brain," Sammy thinks while wandering around the mansion, "and this place proves the point." Even when Jason sticks up for his own family, the way he does so is heartbreaking: "This expression of utter frankness takes over Jason's beautiful face, and he says, 'I don't think we're the lowest scum in town.' He didn't argue that we weren't scum, just disputed our position on the depth chart." With her mildewing etiquette guides and grandiose plans, Jamalee is the only character who doesn't share their sense of defeat, and she's the only one who, in the end, gets away--though she leaves behind her a trail of betrayal and heartache. By the time the novel's final tragedy rolls around, it seems both senseless and inevitable, as tragedies do in real life. Told in a voice that crackles with energy and wit, Tomato Red is sharp, funny, and more importantly, true. --Mary Park

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:43:50 -0400)

(see all 3 descriptions)

A group of petty crooks in the Ozarks organize a series of scams to get rich. One scheme is to have the hunk among them seduce, then blackmail rich women, another is to burglarize houses while the owners are away on holiday.

(summary from another edition)

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