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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. I don't usually read novels (prefer non-fiction), but made an exception for this beautiful work.
Published 22 months ago by marchmere

versus
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 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.
Published on May 31 2004 by J. Harrell


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1.0 out of 5 stars Terrible book, Jan. 26 2004
By A Customer
This review is from: Ellen Foster: A Novel (Paperback)
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. I found this to be a very gloomy and depressing book, and the style of writing makes it very difficult to understand. The writing must be "interpreted" because the author does such a poor job of describing it.
Overall I would have to give this book a big thumbs down. I would never have read it unless I had to.
Whoops, better use an anonymous username in case my English teacher happens to see this! I hate that teacher!
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4.0 out of 5 stars The ending was anti-climactic, Jan. 12 2004
By A Customer
This review is from: Ellen Foster: A Novel (Paperback)
I found the end to be rather anti-climactic, however this was a good book...very brief.
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2.0 out of 5 stars A book that leads to nowhere, Jan. 3 2004
By A Customer
This review is from: Ellen Foster: A Novel (Paperback)
This book follows the life of Ellen. Growing up in the south, her life is filled with racism, abuse and neglect. It seems that all Ellen wants is a place to belong.
I found Ellen Foster to be a very depressing book rather than the uplifting book that it was rumored to be. The writting is hard to follow espesially during Ellen's narrations of her conversations. The book is deeply soaked with symbolism, making even more confusing.
Overall, I guess that this just has to be a genre that you enjoy, for you to like the book. If you like Scifi/Fantasy like I do, this is not the book for you! Instead try the Golden Compass or The Once and Future King.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Ellen Foster, Nov. 9 2003
By 
Tracy Aldred (Louisville, KY) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Ellen Foster: A Novel (Paperback)
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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1.0 out of 5 stars One of the first books I have read..., Nov. 4 2003
This review is from: Ellen Foster: A Novel (Paperback)
by Kaye Gibbons and if this is the line along which her books follow, it will be the last! I was so bored with this book.. bored and DISGUSTED! Isn't there enough crap in this world without having to read about it like that.. Hard enough to know it really does happen, but to dwell on it and actually applaud someone for writing about sick things such as this book. Very disturbing society we live in.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Ellen Foster, Oct. 3 2003
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This review is from: Ellen Foster: A Novel (Paperback)
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
This review is from: Ellen Foster: A Novel (Paperback)
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. But Gibbons wants to take us a couple of steps farther. And here, depending on your point of view, is likely where the book is going to either succeed or falter.
Gibbons has a strong subtextual level in this book about race, the main reason it gets so many nods In comparison with good old Huck Finn. Ellen (who describes herself as white)'s best friend, Starletta, is black, and Ellen is often making comparisons between her life and Starletta's. Mostly the usual stuff one would expect from an eleven-year-old girl, but every once in a while she shows more adult flashes of insight that resound powerfully within the novel (and it's hard to figure out what the actual timeframe is, but I got the distinct feeling it was after the activists were killed in Mississippi in 1964). She does all this, however, with a different delivery method than most of the rest of the novel. She's not too shy about calling her father and his behavior onto the carpet, or taking about the antics of the characters who represent the archetypes of the evil stepmother and stepsister (an aunt and cousin), but she always seems hesitant when getting into the racial issue. (We don't find out Starletta is black for a few chapters, and Ellen does not mention her own race-or what she believes is her race-until the last chapter). Which is all well and good. It fits with Ellen's character and is part of the clue to the timeframe. However, it also raises nagging questions about Ellen's own race, especially given some of the other clues in the book, and the issue remains ultimately unresolved. How a reader is likely to interpret the book depends, then, on whether the reader is willing to take Ellen at her word (or whether the reader believes Ellen is white, instead of biracial/passing, whatever she says).
It is certainly a worthwhile book, and as I've mulled it over the last two weeks I've kicked it up half a star simply because it's stayed fresh in my mind this long. But it seems that such an important issue should have at least been alluded to. *** 1/2
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4.0 out of 5 stars Nice but Different, Aug. 9 2003
By 
Ryan C (CRESSKILL, NJ United States) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Ellen Foster (Hardcover)
"When I was little I would think of ways to kill my Daddy," that is the opening line in Kaye Gibbon's classic novel, Ellen Foster. I must admit I liked this novel, it was not your ordinary school novel. It was not ordinary because it was more modern and down to earth than most 'school' books. Most 'school' books are old and boring, but this one was different. It was interesting and also very heartbreaking. Ellen Foster was heartbreaking because so many terrible things happen to this poor little girl in this book. I don't want to give too much away, but, this little girl handles many instances of death and abuse. The book was sad and touching. This book really makes you think "Wow, I take many things for granted." This thought is provoked because of the horrific things Ellen experiences. It is very interesting to experience such power from a book. Although, there is one problem with this book. That is the way it is written. In my opinion it is written very choppy. Gibbons (or Ellen, because it is written in 1st person) switches subjects very quickly and randomly. It sometimes is very hard to follow. I am not sure how anyone else would take it, because I am only a teenager. Maybe it was a little over my head, or maybe it really is a little choppy, I am not sure. That is the only flaw in Gibbon's Ellen Foster. The plot was very intriguing and heartbreaking, yet the structure is not as good. Overall, I enjoyed reading Ellen Foster and I look forward to my upcoming ventures in English I Honors.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A compelling, touching first novel by the brilliant Gibbons, July 25 2003
By 
Elizabeth (Metairie, LA) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Ellen Foster: A Novel (Paperback)
This is the first book that I have read by Kaye Gibbons, and I can honestly tell you that it will not be the last one I read! This book is short, compelling, inspirational, and touching all at once. It is written in short, choppy but understandable sentences in which an eleven year old girl's language would consist of. Ellen, as I said, is an eleven year old girl that lives in an ignorant town. She was born from a depressed yet loving mother and an abusive father who forces his wife to commit suicide when Ellen is ten years old. Ellen tried to make her mother throw up the pills, but she refused to. Ellen's mama's mama is a nasty, rich old woman who blames her "nigger" father (I don't understand this unnecesaary, cruel name calling, especially since I think he is white) and Ellen for her daugher's death. I can understand her blaming the father, but certainly not ELLEN. Ellen spends her time with her "colored" friend Starletta, who I think is younger than Ellen. At the beginning of the book Ellen feels sorry for Starletta since her family is poor and African American, but she begins to understand that a person's color has nothing to do with their status in life. Her ignorant eyes open as she is brought to uncaring family members to take care of her since her father abuses her. The only one who understands her for a while is her art teacher Julia, but she moves away. Her father dies, and so does her cruel grandmother who was "taking care of her." Ellen then goes to live with her uncaring aunt and bratty cousin until she runs away and finds her new mama, who is very kind to her. She calls herself "Ellen Foster" because she loves her new "Foster" family.
It is a heartbreaking yet inspirational read. It is a fast yet compelling read. Ellen is intelligent and witty at times. She will win your heart. I highly recommend it.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A gripping, compelling read, June 27 2003
By 
Peggy Vincent "author and reader" (Oakland, CA) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Ellen Foster: A Novel (Paperback)
Eleven-year-old Ellen Foster is an orphan, abused and neglected by her parents and finally abandoned (after her mother's death)to a series of cold or uncaring relatives. With courage, wit, and native intelligence, she finds her own path to salvation.
Sound familiar? - Like lots of other comtemporary books about child abuse? Yes, but there's a difference: the understated, matter-of-fact telling of the story that makes this book so special. In Ellen Foster, Gibbons uses her beautiful language, literary acumen, and attention to detail to craft a clean, small spare portrait, a gift to all readers.
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Ellen Foster: A Novel
Ellen Foster: A Novel by Kaye Gibbons (Paperback - Nov. 5 1997)
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