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The $64 Tomato

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This is the gift book of the year...The $64 Tomato is a wonderful gift to share with those who appreciate a good laugh. You could comfortably give it to your mother or the church organist, for there is nothing to offend. For many readers, the humor will seem gentle, in a Saturday Evening Post or Reader's Digest way. Readers who have decided to try "growing a vegetable or two" will, instead, laugh uproariously at author William Alexander's tales of squirrel armies, organic growing and a woodchuck that would make Dr. Frankenstein proud.

Portions of the book deal with the acquisition of a woefully untended home and its subsequent restoration, and homeowners will chortle with delight to know that these nightmares occur to other folks, too. The good times really roll, however, when Alexander decides to convert two hilly acres into a sumptuous, picturesque vegetable garden and orchard. The garden was a joyous dream to plan, as most are, but in execution it becomes a nightmare of Brobdingnagian proportions. Clay is not soil. Weeds love turned earth. Orchards can be decimated overnight. Wildlife are relentless. Alexander battles nature in pursuit of a dream, season after season, unbowed by foul weather and foul tempers.

He tells a rather touching tale of his father, who grew delicious apples organically at their home in a New York borough: ripe, perfect fruits bursting with healthy goodness, all grown in the back yard. Alexander's attempts to replicate this miracle from his childhood are hysterical, and the punch line at the end is as touching as it is uproarious.

Anyone who is obsessed with gardening will understand how one can spend $64 growing a tomato; the price of this book seems a bargain in comparison.