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Ellen Foster (1987)

by Kaye Gibbons

Series: Ellen Foster (1)

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
3,369633,249 (3.69)1 / 132
Having suffered abuse and misfortune for much of her life, a young child searches for a better life and finally gets a break in the home of a loving woman with several foster children.
  1. 52
    The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd (rbtanger)
  2. 20
    The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon (petterw)
    petterw: Similarly, Ellen Foster tells a story in the voice of a child, and the reader must fill in the blanks.
  3. 10
    The Silver Star: A Novel by Jeannette Walls (BookshelfMonstrosity)
  4. 01
    Pictures of Hollis Woods by Patricia Reilly Giff (rbtanger)
    rbtanger: Although Ellen Foster was written with an adult audience in mind and Pictures of Hollis Woods was written for YA, the two books share a common theme as well as being beautifully written. The joy of Hope is central to both.
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» See also 132 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 62 (next | show all)
Ellen Foster is a tale of survival, courage and endurance. Ellen is one of the bravest eleven year olds I have ever encountered in literature, wise beyond her years, but innocent and sweet and deserving of better.

When she says, “My daddy was a mistake for a person.”, she could not be more right. In fact, many of the people she encounters in her short life seem to be mistakes, but she also finds hope and gets glimpses of what might be, and the determined soul that she is, she fights to have that better life be her reality.

The book is written entirely in Ellen’s voice, and it is both honest and genuine.

I know I have made being in the garden with her into a regular event but she was really only well like that for one season. You see if you tell yourself the same tale over and over again enough times then the tellings become separate stories and you will generally fool yourself into forgetting you only started with one solitary season out of your life.

Can you imagine having to hold on that tight to one memory and making it the central one so that the reality, that is so much the opposite, does not overwhelm you? I loved that she was able to do this, even though she clearly knows that is what she is doing.

With most novels written from the child’s perspective, we have an unreliable narrator and must fish for the truths that lie beneath what the child sees but cannot understand. Ellen is nothing if not reliable. She sees the truth so much more clearly than the adults around her do, and she clings to the thing inside her that makes her herself and keeps her strong.

So many folks thinking and wanting you to be somebody else will confuse you if you are not very careful.

This is my first book by Kaye Gibbons. I have had several of them on my TBR for a long time and one sitting on my physical bookshelf that I have managed not to read yet. I will not hesitate to read her again. This was her first novel, so I have every reason to expect she can only get better--and better than this would be some accomplishment indeed.


( )
  mattorsara | Aug 11, 2022 |
I remember loving this book when it came out. ( )
  Ccyynn | Feb 15, 2022 |
Sad, but intriguing. ( )
  Chica3000 | Dec 11, 2020 |
i found this book at a junk shop, not knowing it was queen oprah's selection. i paid 25 cents! it was so well written, imaginative and real. i wonder why i'd never heard of kaye gibbons before. ellen is strong, hopeful and inspirational. ( )
  gakgakg | May 28, 2020 |
The protagonist of this poignant novella is Ellen, a fifth grade who, like Little Orphan Annie, has a "hard-knock life" physically abused by an alcoholic father and neglected by a mother frequently in bed with depression. Although one might believe that this work would be a depressing read, the mood is lightened with Ellen's musings, such as the opening lines:

"When I was little I would think of ways to kill my daddy. I would figure out this or that way and run it down through my head until it got easy."

Much of the novella is an interweaving of three time periods including after she is placed in a foster home, which she described as a place where "nobody barks, farts, or feeds the dogs under the table..." I had no difficulty keeping track of the various time frames.

Essentially, the book is about one poor, but resilient, white Southern girl who desperately seeks a family and a mother to replace the one she loss. Her longing brought tears to my eyes, but the satisfying ending makes this work a must read. ( )
  John_Warner | Feb 10, 2020 |
Showing 1-5 of 62 (next | show all)
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Cast the bantling on the rocks, Suckle him with the she-worlf's teat, Wintered with the hawk and fox, Power and speed be hands and feet. -Inscription to "Self-Reliance" Ralph Waldo Emeron
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When I was little I would think of ways to kill my Daddy.
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Having suffered abuse and misfortune for much of her life, a young child searches for a better life and finally gets a break in the home of a loving woman with several foster children.

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