The old, converted vegetable shop where Tillie lives is more like a madhouse than a home. Tillie's mother, Beatrice, is bitter and cruel, yet desperate for her daughters' love. Her sister, Ruth, suffers epileptic fits and sneaks cigarettes every chance she gets. In the midst of chaos, Tillie struggles to keep her focus and dreams alive. Tillie -- keeper of rabbits, dreamer of atoms, true believer in life, hope, and the effect of gamma rays on man-in-the-moon marigolds.
"Paul Zindel was written a masterful, pacesetting drama. It combines moments of pain, poignancy, beauty, and hope. It is the most compelling work of its kind since Tennessee Williams' The Glass Menagerie."--Variety.
"The ultimate accolade must go to Paul Zindel for creating a psychologically perceptive ambiance. Shame hangs in the air of this house and palpably as poison gas. And yet, Zindel reminds us, strong, strange, beautiful flowers spring from such compost heaps. It is a troubling thought, one of the honest and intelligent values of this splendid and tormented play."--Time
First published in 1970, the themes of Paul Zindel's Pulitzer Prize-winning play are still relevant today. Tillie is the hopeful protagonist, working toward her educational goals in an effort to escape the chaos of her home. Tillie's mother, Beatrice, is cruel and mad; abusive to her children and to the old woman who boards with the family. Ruth interrupts the chaos with her epileptic fits and alternates between supporting her sister and winding her mother up. Tillie's pain and fear are at the forefront of the story, as she struggles to succeed in the school science fair and receive positive recognition for her man-in-the-moon marigolds. Tension between the characters reaches its height on the night of the fair, when a last minute insult from Ruth causes her mother to remain home in shame. Beatrice's act of retaliation is shocking and brings the play to its disturbing conclusion. The compelling characterizations and plot work together to make this play the classic that it has become.--Children's Literature - Mary Loftus