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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.

Product Details

Product Description

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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When I was little I would think of ways to kill my daddy. Read the first page
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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Ellen Foster June 2 2012
Heard about this book from [...]
It was like a long poem - one of the best books I have read in a long time. I don't usually read novels (prefer non-fiction), but made an exception for this beautiful work.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Not for everyone, but a good book. Nov. 9 2003
If you want a book that will fit into a nice little box with a label, this ain't the book for you. However, if you like to challenge what you THINK you know, then give this a try. Excellent for a discussion group, just as good read on your own, this is a book that asks you to suspend your own experiences and try to see the world from another vantage point. The plot was interesting, the narrator's voice was appealing. I cared about what happened. A short read. But what's short on quantity is not short on substance.
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5.0 out of 5 stars I loved this book---you will also June 6 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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3.0 out of 5 stars seemed dated May 31 2004
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 the end. Almost as though Ellen's living hell needed more weight to be of import. Possibly I'd have been more moved in 1987, when this book was first published.
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4.0 out of 5 stars A great short book, but quite involving April 30 2004
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 Ellen Foster.
Ellen Foster has experienced her mother's, grandmother's and father's deaths. She is jumping around from leaf to leaf and looking for a permanant family.
This book jumps between time periods, when she is looking for a new family and when she has found a new family.
Ellen obviously can survive this because of her witty, aridly humorous take on life.
You can really understand her life because of Kaye Gibbons's brilliant depictions of what it is like to be misunderstood, to not know where you belong.
You will enjoy this book if you're looking for a book you can really get into, feel, and love. You will also find a laugh or two inside of the book, but you might have to look real hard!
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5.0 out of 5 stars deeply moving, creatively written April 26 2004
By A Customer
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 cry in one sentence. The book is made even better, in my opinion, by the fact that it is written from Ellen's point of view; this creates a certain innocent charm that adds to the emotional depth. She also makes light on topics such as racial equality and poor vs. rich. Overall, I would avidly recommend this book to anybody who loves a deeply moving read.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Ellen is fabulous! April 15 2004
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. Depressing- no. Sad- yes, orphanstories tend to be sad. Uplifting - very much so. Beautiful- without a doubt. I tend to shy away from Oprah because of the glitz, but I may take another look at her lists. I missed out on this wonder for too long because it was dubbed an "Oprah book."
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5.0 out of 5 stars A Depressing but Good Book!!! April 6 2004
By L. Hall
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 she is. Instead of suffering painfully, she goes out to find her own happiness. I would clearly recommend this book:)
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