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Ellen Foster [School & Library Binding]

Kaye Gibbons
4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (238 customer reviews)

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School & Library Binding, November 1997 --  
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Book Description

November 1997 0833525433 978-0833525437
Winner of the American Academy of Arts and Letters' Sue Kaufman Prize for First Fiction and of the Ernest Hemingway Foundation's Citation for Fiction. An eleven-year-old heroine tells her unforgettable story with honesty, perceptivity, humor, and unselfconscious heroism. "The honesty of thought and eye and feeling and word!"--Eudora Welty; "A lovely, breathtaking, sometimes heart-wrenching first novel."--Walker Percy. A LITERARY GUILD SELECTION.

--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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From Amazon

Oprah Book Club® Selection, October 1997: Kaye Gibbons is a writer who brings a short story sensibility to her novels. Rather than take advantage of the novel's longer form to paint her visions in broad, sweeping strokes, Gibbons prefers to concentrate on just one corner of the canvas and only a few colors to produce her small masterpieces. In Gibbons's case, her canvas is the American South and her colors are all the shades of gray.

In Ellen Foster, the title character is an 11-year-old orphan who refers to herself as "old Ellen," an appellation that is disturbingly apt. Ellen is an old woman in a child's body; her frail, unhappy mother dies, her abusive father alternately neglects her and makes advances on her, and she is shuttled from one uncaring relative's home to another before she finally takes matters into her own hands and finds herself a place to belong. There is something almost Dickensian about Ellen's tribulations; like Oliver Twist, David Copperfield or a host of other literary child heroes, Ellen is at the mercy of predatory adults, with only her own wit and courage--and the occasional kindness of others--to help her through. That she does, in fact, survive her childhood and even rise above it is the book's bittersweet victory. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

The appealing, eponymous, 11-year-old orphan heroine of this Southern-focused debut survives appalling situations until she finds safe harbor in a good foster home. "Some readers will find the recital of Ellen's woes mawkishly sentimental," PW remarked, "but for others it may be a perfect summer read."
Copyright 1988 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars I loved this book---you will also June 5 2005
The conundrum---what to do? The book is told from the perspective of an eleven-year-old girl (think along the lines of Sue Monk Kidd's SECRET LIFE OF BEES). I was thinking, "Oh, no. Not again." But as usual the author handles the material expertly. But what do you do when the main character is the one telling the story, yet her grammar is terrible? Do you leave in the bad English, or do you clean it up and have the "realistic" element taken out? This is a difficult question, and a few authors get around this in various way---I'm thinking of THE BARK OF THE DOGWOOD with its precocious seven-year-old who spouts the Latin names for plants. So much for bad grammar. But in ELLEN FOSTER, that couldn't have been done. I only found this "realism" mildly distracting as the story itself is good. Read in one day, it was a not-too-emotional telling by a very talented author who deserves much more respect and admiration that she is getting. Also try her ON THE OCCASION which, I believe, is her best book.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Ellen Foster Nov. 9 2003
I recently read the book Ellen Foster. It is a book wrote by Kaye Gibbons told through the voice of the main character Ellen. It is a book that shows the realities of life and the things that many people have to endure but rarely speak of. Throughout the story she is moved from one home to the next and endures many hardships. It deals with such issues as physical and emotional abuse.
The book was very intriguing and made me want to keep reading. I also enjoyed the book because it is very true to life that many people experience. It made me believe that it could really have happened to someone. Or that Ellen could have been a real person. Another reason that I enjoyed the story was because it analyzed many things in her life and the situations that she was put in.
There were however, some things that were confusing in the book. The author left out small details that probaly could have helped me understand the book a little better, such as her age and the time period. Also in some parts the author would skip to a new scene leaving me confused. some of the time it was hard to keep up.
Overall I really enjoyed the book. The storyline was good and it was a very heart breaking book. I also taught many lessons. No matter how many bad things happend to Ellen she never fely sorry for herself.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Ellen Foster Oct. 3 2003
By h
Ellen Foster is the story of a young girl whose life is far beyond difficult. Her mother commits suicide, her father is an abusive alcoholic, and her grandmother despises everything about her and treats unscrupulously. After the death of her grandmother, she takes her life and responsibilities into her own hands and finds herself a home with the "Foster family." Ellen is 11 years old when finally settles down in a secure household. In my mind, she is more heroic than any other 11 year old I know. Kaye Gibbons created a jewel when she wrote Ellen Foster. Something about Ellen and her enormous heart arouse feelings almost of guilt in the reader. Ellen's hardships make you thankful for all you have. Ellen was truly sweet girl, never intending any harm, but causing some. Reading about Ellen makes you feel like you've known her for years, and that everything she has experienced has happened to you in exactly the same way. You're own her side so much that you feel her opinions on every issue, and you long for the love and care she deserves. The book is refreshing, and uplifting because of the emotions you receive reading it.
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3.0 out of 5 stars ...and I still don't know. Aug. 11 2003
Kaye Gibbons, Ellen Foster (Vintage, 1987)
So I finished this novel coming up on two weeks ago now, and I've been letting it marinate. I don't normally do that; I try to write reviews within a couple of days to keep everything fresh in my head. But when I finished Ellen Foster, all the voice in my head said was "...I don't know...", so I figured it's get clearer as I spent some time mulling the book over. But here we are two weeks later, and when it comes right down to it, I still don't know.
I wasn't aware this was an Oprah book until I just started doing research for this review (about ten minutes ago), but it's easy to see why. Another entry in the Dysfunction Junction genre, but then, when has Southern fiction not aspired to that great community? Faulkner and McCullers are looking proudly down from heaven at their figurative grandchildren who carry on the tradition. And if this book were nothing more than a study in dysfunction, I'd be able to say 'great, it does its job, it's mercifully shorter than most of the tripe Oprah recommends, one of the few she's picked that can be recommended without reservation."
But therein lies the problem, Ellen Foster is not just a novel about familial dysfunction. Oh, don't get me wrong, all the good stuff is covered; alcoholic father with incestuous and pedophilic tendencies (and isn't it interesting how those features go together more and more in American dysfunction fiction?), teacher with a heart of gold who wants to save the kid but is enough of a maverick the school fires her, evil "stepmother" (not literally, in this case), redemption through the church, etc., etc. ad infinitum. And Gibbons handles it all with a deft enough touch that we can put aside the fact that we saw it all in the Brothers Grimm and sit back and enjoy the ride.
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Most recent customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Ellen Foster
Heard about this book from [...]
It was like a long poem - one of the best books I have read in a long time. Read more
Published on June 2 2012 by marchmere
3.0 out of 5 stars seemed dated
I appreciated the humor and wisdom in Ellen's voice. I applauded her spunk. The subject matter is enormous in its own right, so I was mystified by what seemed a twist in focus at... Read more
Published on May 30 2004 by J. Harrell
4.0 out of 5 stars A great short book, but quite involving
If you are picking up this book because it is short, that's fine, but if you don't want to get a book where you're involved, a book where you actually feel things, then don't read... Read more
Published on April 30 2004 by Hsoj Yensid
5.0 out of 5 stars deeply moving, creatively written
I read this book starting out as an assignment, but ended up adding it to the list of my favorites. The amount of levels Gibbons writes on is amazing; she can make you laugh and... Read more
Published on April 25 2004
5.0 out of 5 stars Ellen is fabulous!
The voice of this little girl is amazingly clear. How often do you laugh out loud? For a book that is not so funny... but oh, what a voice she has. Brilliantly written. Read more
Published on April 15 2004 by katiebug
5.0 out of 5 stars A Depressing but Good Book!!!
I recently read this book and was very impressed.

Ellen is born into a difficult family.When her mother dies, and her father continues to drink Ellen sees how unhappy... Read more
Published on April 6 2004 by L. Hall
4.0 out of 5 stars As good as it gets
My first Kaye Gibbons book was "On the Occasion of my Last Afternnon," and I was hooked at that point. I can honestly say that the woman simply does not write bad books. Read more
Published on April 3 2004
5.0 out of 5 stars An Excellent Book!!!
An 11 year old girl is born into a bad life. Her mother dies and her father drinks constantly. The poor girl drifts from one
foster home to another, in search of someone who... Read more
Published on March 29 2004 by L. Hall
1.0 out of 5 stars Terrible book
My English teacher assigned me to read this book... for some reason he must like the Oprah's Book Club, because we have read numerous other books from it this year. Read more
Published on Jan. 26 2004
4.0 out of 5 stars The ending was anti-climactic
I found the end to be rather anti-climactic, however this was a good book...very brief.
Published on Jan. 12 2004
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