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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.

Topics: Coming of Age, Child Abuse, Foster Care, Survival, First Person Narration, North Carolina, Bildungsroman, Debut, and Race Relations

Published: Workman eBooks on Oct 17, 2012
ISBN: 9781616203085
List price: $13.95
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Ellen was a really interesting character.I did enjoy this book but I was confused on what time period it was in.I thought for the longest time it was 50's possibly early 60's. Then there is a paragraph where her teacher says she was a flower child in the 60's and that made the book so different for me.I had to pretend I hadn't read that and went on with it in the decade I assumed it was in.read more
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Meh. I had a bit of a hard time following this book, and left several days in between readings. It really never captured my interest, and there were some formatting problems with the Kindle edition (no extra spaces between scene shifts) that were confusing. Ellen herself wasn't terribly likeable, or interesting.read more
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The book was depressing.....we never know what children live through. This being told through the eyes of a child made it even more sad.I did keep reading, though...what an awful childhood, but she made it through.read more
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Ellen was a really interesting character.I did enjoy this book but I was confused on what time period it was in.I thought for the longest time it was 50's possibly early 60's. Then there is a paragraph where her teacher says she was a flower child in the 60's and that made the book so different for me.I had to pretend I hadn't read that and went on with it in the decade I assumed it was in.
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
Meh. I had a bit of a hard time following this book, and left several days in between readings. It really never captured my interest, and there were some formatting problems with the Kindle edition (no extra spaces between scene shifts) that were confusing. Ellen herself wasn't terribly likeable, or interesting.
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
The book was depressing.....we never know what children live through. This being told through the eyes of a child made it even more sad.I did keep reading, though...what an awful childhood, but she made it through.
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I loved this book - it was amazing and I couldn't put it down. I subsequently searched for all Kay Gibbons' other books to devour after this one. You just lose yourself in her stories - fantastic!
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There's one major disappointment with this book: the fact that I've had this on my bookshelf for almost 11 years, and I just got around to reading it.

Oprah chose Ellen Foster as her Book Club pick on October 27, 1997. I received this as a Christmas gift that same year but for some unknown reason - another more compelling book, perhaps - I never read it. Sure, I glanced at it from time to time, but mostly as it was packed, unpacked, and repacked - and then packed, unpacked and repacked again - and still again a third time, as we moved to three separate residences in 11 years.

Eleven is also the age of Ellen, the protagonist of this exquisite novel. Orphaned, Ellen herself is sent packing after the death of her abusive father (which follows her mother's suicide). The novel deals with Ellen's quest for home in every sense of the word - shelter, yes, but also a place of belonging and acceptance. From Oprah.com:

Ellen's first eleven years are a long fight for survival. Her invalid, abused mother commits suicide, leaving Ellen to the mercies of her daddy, a drunken brute who either ignores her or makes sexual threats. Through her intelligence and grit Ellen is able to provide for herself, but her desperate attempts to create an environment of order and decorum within her nightmarish home are repeatedly foiled by her father. After his death, a judge awards Ellen's custody to her mother's mother, a bitter and vengeful woman who hated her son-in-law for ruining her own daughter's life and who hates the child Ellen for her physical resemblance to him.Against all odds, Ellen never gives up her belief that there is a place for her in the world, a home which will satisfy all her longing for love, acceptance, and order. Her eventual success in finding that home and courageously claiming it as her own is a testimony to her unshakable faith in the possibility of good. She never loses that faith, and she never loses her sense of humor. Ellen Foster, like another American classic, Huckleberry Finn, is for all its high comedy ultimately a serious fable of personal and collective responsibility.

This is a quick read (only 126 pages) and if you have the opportunity to listen to it on audio (as I did), I recommend that version also. Although similar themes have been portrayed in other works, Ellen Foster is an exceptional, compelling and emotional story. As a first novel, this book is a true triumph for the author Kaye Gibbons. As someone who enjoys Southern fiction, I enjoyed this tremendously and look forward to reading more of Kaye Gibbons' work - within the next decade, to be sure.
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Unique in that this story of hardship is told entirely from the point of view of a child with no adult mirroring of what is occurring - very effective.
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