Kate Battista, at age 29, is definitely in a rut. How did she end up keeping house for her mad scientist of a father, Louis, and watching over her 15-year-old spoiled brat of a sister, Bunny? Her professional life is not much better, as she finds herself teaching preschoolers, and constantly offending their parents because of how she speaks straight from the hip.
She loves her gardening, however, and there is a certain amount of control in handling the household, since her father is inept. Except he does have strange rules of order for how food is served and which items belong on a grocery list.
His lab assistant, Pyotr, has a special problem, however, and just when Kate is wondering why her father is suddenly thrusting this young man in her face, mentioning how wonderful he is, over and over, she realizes finally what it’s all about. This thing he wants her to do for him. His assistant is vital to his research, and he is about to be deported. Could Kate do this tiny little favor for them? Marry him?
Vinegar Girl was aptly titled, with our Kate being one who doesn’t sugarcoat anything. She says what she thinks, never mind what anyone else expects from her. Like many eldest daughters in Anne Tyler’s novels, Kate is the one her father expects to do his bidding. To set aside her needs for his own selfish pursuits, which to him seem necessary. He believes he should come first in her eyes.
I could feel my emotions rising as the tale continued, as Kate tried to make a decision. In some ways, her actions were surprising, but then again, she was a practical character, so perhaps things happened exactly the way they should.
In the end, some obstacles almost derailed everything, and we see an angry side to the previously calm and polite Pyotr. I was almost afraid of where it would go next. But then, the sweet ending felt strangely right. As a supposed retelling of The Taming of the Shrew, Tyler’s unique spin on the characters and the story felt spot on. A five star read!