Pomegranate Tart for Pomegranate by Helen Elaine Lee

For this stop on the TLC Book Tour, I was pleased to receive a gratis copy of Pomegranate.   

All opinions and rants are my own and were not influenced by my free copy.   Not only is the cover art amazing, but the story is a must read.

About Pomegranate

• Publisher: Atria Books (April 11, 2023)
• Hardcover: 352 pages

“A remarkable feat of literary conjuration.” —Jennifer Haigh, nationally bestselling author of Mercy Street

The acclaimed author of The Serpent’s Gift returns with this gripping and powerful novel of healing, redemption, and love, following a queer Black woman who works to stay clean, pull her life together, and heal after being released from prison.

Ranita Atwater is “getting short.”

She is almost done with her four-year sentence for opiate possession at Oak Hills Correctional Center. With three years of sobriety, she is determined to stay clean and regain custody of her two children.

My name is Ranita, and I’m an addict, she has said again and again at recovery meetings. But who else is she? Who might she choose to become? As she claims the story housed within her pomegranate-like heart, she is determined to confront the weight of the past and discover what might lie beyond mere survival.

Ranita is regaining her freedom, but she’s leaving behind her lover Maxine, who has inspired her to imagine herself and the world differently. Now she must steer clear of the temptations that have pulled her down, while atoning for her missteps and facing old wounds. With a fierce, smart, and sometimes funny voice, Ranita reveals how rocky and winding the path to wellness is for a Black woman, even as she draws on family, memory, faith, and love in order to choose life.

Perfect for fans of Jesmyn Ward and Yaa Gyasi, Pomegranate is a complex portrayal of queer Black womanhood and marginalization in America: a story of loss, healing, redemption, and strength. In lyrical and precise prose, Helen Elaine Lee paints a humane and unflinching portrait of the devastating effects of incarceration and addiction, and of one woman’s determination to tell her story.


About the Author:Helen Elaine Lee

Helen Elaine Lee grew up in Detroit, Michigan. She is a graduate of Harvard College and Harvard Law School. Her first novel, The Serpent’s Gift, was published by Atheneum and her second novel, Water Marked, was published by Scribner. Her short stories have appeared in Ploughshares, Prairie Schooner, Callaloo, Hanging Loose, and Solstice Literary Magazine. She served on the PEN New England board and on its Freedom to Write Committee, and volunteered with its Prison Creative Writing Program, which she helped to establish. She has written about leading creative writing workshops in prison in a New York Times essay, “Visible Men”. Helen is Professor of Comparative Media Studies/Writing at MIT. Her new novel, Pomegranate, will be published on April 11 by Simon & Schuster’s Atria Books.

What I thought…

I loved Yaa Gyasi’s Homecoming so when Lisa from TLC mentioned that Gyasi fans would love this book, I jumped at the chance.    Lee’s style and the novel’s structure did not disappoint.

I enjoyed Ranita’s voice (whether it was first-person present day or the third-person POV from her past). I was rooting for her from the start and I almost died when she had missteps.  Ranita has a lot to overcome, too much so to cover for this review (and I want to stay away from any spoilers).  Pomegranate could have been two novels with one being her diving into her therapy sessions with Drew.  It helped that Ranita had a family members to support her.

I loved the symbolism of her picking up “city glass,”  showing her love of beauty in the dregs.

My only criticism is that there were some characters that just needed to go away (for good), DQ being chief among them.

I can certainly see this novel getting picked up for a film.

The Food:

Some of the most vivid food imagery come from Ranita’s experiences in prison.

Inside, folks talk endlessly about the meals and treats they had when they were free, the barbecue, the rice and beans, the banana pudding and red velvet cake that are lost to them.  Their faces glow as they remember out loud how food means gathering.  Food means family. Food means celebration and being close and pleasure.  (22)

There are other instances where the inventive cooking practices, creativeness and cuisine of “inside” is revealed.

Ranita finds work as a dishwasher at a restaurant and learns some recipes like chicken piccata that she makes for her beloved Aunt Jessie.

The title of the book references a memory of her father, her only parent that she had a loving relationship with growing up.   As a gift after the loss of the matriarch, her father presented her with this unusual fruit.    His intent was to show Ranita that there’s beauty inside this strange and somewhat ugly and tough exterior.   After breaking it open, she muses:

I can still see it, rough and scratched and not at all remarkable on the outside… and just beneath the skin, sinew binding it together and chambers filled with winding layers of ruby-red jewels. (338)

Remembering this pomegranate has kept Ranita focused throughout her trials.  “I try and see myself as filled with ruby seeds.  Everything I’ve lived, the things I’ve been and done…what’s been done to me…and for me.  The all of it, it’s in me” (339).

I won’t spoil the ending, but I do think that Ranita is going to be alright.

Pomegranate Olive Oil Tart


Based on a lemon tart recipe.


For the crust:

  • 1 1/2 c. all-purpose flour
  • 5 T. sugar
  • 1/2 t. salt
  • 1/2 c. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1-2 T. water

For the filling:

  • 1 c. sugar
  • 2 T. flour
  • 1/4 t. salt
  • 3 large eggs, plus 3 additional yolks (whisk to combine)
  • 1/2 c. pomegranate juice
  • 1/4 c. extra virgin olive oil
  • pomegranate arils for garnish (optional)


  1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 350F.
  2. In the bowl of a food processor with the blade attachment, briefly combine the flour, sugar, and salt. Add oil and water (1 T at a time) and process just until uniform dough forms.
  3. Using your hands, pat  dough over bottom and sides of 9″ tart pan with removable bottom. Press dough to even thickness on bottom and sides.  Place pan on rimmed baking sheet and bake until crust is deep golden brown and firm to touch, 30 to 35 minutes, rotating pan halfway through baking.
  4. About 5 minutes before crust is finished baking, whisk sugar, flour, and salt in medium saucepan until combined. Whisk in eggs and yolks until no streaks of egg remain. Whisk in lemon zest and pomegranate juice. Cook over medium-low heat, whisking constantly and scraping corners of saucepan, until mixture thickens slightly and registers 160F, 5 to 8 minutes.
  5. Off heat, whisk in oil until incorporated. Strain curd through fine-mesh strainer set over bowl (if needed). Pour curd into warm tart shell.
  6. Bake until filling is set and barely jiggles when pan is shaken, 8 to 12 minutes. Let tart cool completely on wire rack, at least 2 hours. Remove outer metal ring of tart pan. Slide thin metal spatula between tart and pan bottom, then carefully slide tart onto serving platter. Cut tart into wedges, wiping knife clean between cuts if necessary, and serve.  Garnish with pomegranate arils.

The taste of this tart was spot on.  Don’t skimp on the lemon zest.  The color, however, was not what I was expecting.  I wanted a truly glistening, ruby-red color.  I got more of a dirty puce.   Definitely wanted to cover this with pomegranate arils.   

I have to say that this crust is beyond wonderful.  My next experiment will be using this crust recipe for an apple tart of some sort.

I’m linking up today to Foodies Read.


To see what others thought, check out the book tour schedule.

TLC tour schedule:

Monday, April 3rd: @wherethereadergrows

Tuesday, April 4th: @fieldstone_lfl

Tuesday, April 4th: @just_another_mother_with_books

Wednesday, April 5th: @marensreads

Thursday, April 6th: @reading.with.my.goldens

Friday, April 7th: @book_boss-12

Saturday, April 8th: @wovenfromwords

Monday, April 10th:  @bookinitwithahtiya – review

Monday, April 10th: @babygotbooks4life

Monday, April 10th:  @jennthemoodyreader on TikTok

Tuesday, April 11th: IG: @lilacsandliterature and TT: @lilacsandliterature

Tuesday, April 11th: @thelifeofbooks on TikTok

Wednesday, April 12th: @kelly_hunsaker_reads

Wednesday, April 12th: @reading_with_nicole

Thursday, April 13th: @bookswithsyd

Thursday, April 13th: @low_keybookish

Friday, April 14th: @naesreadingnook

Friday, April 14th: @suzysbookshelf

Friday, April 14th: @haunflyingsolo on TikTok

Saturday, April 15th: @sometimesrobinreads on TikTok – review

Sunday, April 16th: @laurensbookvibes

Monday, April 17th: @hoardingbooks.herdingcats

Monday, April 17th: Stranded in Chaos and @sarastrand9438 – review

Monday, April 17th: @nurse_bookie

Tuesday, April 18th: @wordsandcyphers – review

Wednesday, April 19th:  @booksloveandunderstanding

Wednesday, April 19th: @bookmarked.by.becky – review

Wednesday, April 19th: Run Wright and @karen_runwrightreads – review

Thursday, April 20th: @sarahs.bookish.reviews – review

Thursday, April 20th: @librarywhore – review

Friday, April 21st: @beeisforbooks

Friday, April 21st: @rickys_radical_reads – review

Friday, April 21st: @angelsmomreads – review

Friday, April 21st: @allthebooksalltheways

Saturday, April 22nd: IG: @introtoeclecticism and TT: @introtoeclecticism – review

Sunday, April 23rd: @djreadsbooks

Sunday, April 23rd: @secullabooktok on TikTok

Monday, April 24th: @stephreadsalot on TikTok

Monday, April 24th: @subakka.bookstuff

Monday, April 24th: @katieloybythebook – review

Tuesday, April 25th: @thisbrownegirlreads

Tuesday, April 25th: IG: @jesusandsheabutterreads and TT: @jesusandsheabutterreads

Tuesday, April 25th: @littlefoot_books

Wednesday, April 26th: @carly.simone

Wednesday, April 26th: @beachesandreads

Thursday, April 27th: @blackbiracialandbookish – review

Thursday, April 27th: @pastbookish

Friday, April 28th: @cappyreads – review

Friday, April 28th: @monikasbookblog – review

Saturday, April 29th: @shook_sbooks

Saturday, April 29th: @storytimewithshelbs on TikTok

Sunday, April 30th: @ohyouread

Sunday, April 30th: @page_appropriate

Monday, May 1st: Eliot’s Eats – review

Monday, May 1st: @thereadingblackgirls

Monday, May 1st: @books_and_biewers

Tuesday, May 2nd: @booksnbikram

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