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Ellen Foster 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 So begins the tale of Ellen Foster, the brave and engaging heroine of Kay Gibbons's first novel, which won the Sue Kaufman Prize from the American Academy of Institute of Arts and Letters Wise, funny, affectionate, and true, Ellen Foster is, as Walker Percy called it, The real thing Which is to say, a lovely, sometimes heartwrenching novel[Ellen Foster] is as much a part of the backwoods South as a Faulkner character—and a good deal endearing


10 thoughts on “Ellen Foster

  1. Angela M Angela M says:



    This is a short but powerful and a lot of the time a painful story . Ellen Foster is a precocious eleven year old girl whose courage and strength and infinite wisdom carry her through things that no child should bear .

    I wanted to pull Ellen out of those pages and take care of her , get her away from her alcoholic father who for the most part has abandoned her and her miserable grandmother who takes her in for a period of time. But ultimately it's Ellen who pulled me up from the despair I felt for her as she tries to find that safe and comfortable home she wants so badly . I loved how she cared about her little friend Starletta and knew so much more than the adults around her about equality .

    If you have had this on your to read list for a while , you should read it . If you don't have it on your list you should read it anyway . Just a beautiful little story with so much to give .


  2. Lucie Lucie says:

    “When I was little I would think of ways to kill my daddy.” That's quite an opening line!

    I chose this book because I was wanting to read classic-American-literature and was also hovering around award-winners. This novella is both.

    Ellen has survived a childhood filled with abuse and neglect, yet her spirit never fails. She has a results-oriented, get-it-done attitude which causes her to hatch a plan... she's going to find herself a new family.

    There are so many beautiful moments within this story, made all the more beautiful when contrasted against the difficult ones. It was interesting to learn why Ellen had given herself the last name of Foster. Her 11-year-old mind did not yet understand that a foster family was not a family with the last name of Foster. 😊

    It's those types of sweet moments that will touch your heart. I found this story to be more heart-warming than heart-breaking. Ellen will stay with me for a very long time.


  3. ❀Julie ❀Julie says:

    This would make a great book club pick. It’s a quick read and simply told, but with a lot of depth, and a powerful opening line that is a real attention grabber. Ellen Foster is only 11 years old but is an “old soul” and there is a lot to be learned from her character. The story is told through her voice and the author really gets into her head giving a sense for all she is thinking and feeling. I felt it softened the tone coming from her perspective, but it really makes you think about the lifelong effects of child abuse. I normally have a hard time reading about this topic because I find it so distressing but Ellen’s character is so charming and feisty that it was hard not to root for her in her search for a “new mama”. Naturally there is sadness, but it’s ultimately an uplifting story about finding strength through adversity. I found it particularly touching how she came about the name of Ellen Foster. 4 stars.


  4. Carol Carol says:

    It is hard not to fall in love with 11 year old Ellen Foster as she narrates her struggles thru her young life of abuse and repeated disappointments in search of a safe home and someone to love her. She is so brave and bright and mature for her age, and will make you laugh in spite of it all. Great book!


  5. Connie G Connie G says:

    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.

    Ellen Foster grabs you with that first paragraph, and doesn't let go as she narrates her story. Told with humor and honesty, the orphaned girl learns what is important about people in a rural southern town in the 1970s. It's not possessions or the color of their skin, but the goodness in their hearts.

    Even though Ellen's childhood has been terribly difficult, she finally finds herself in a good, safe situation. She realizes that her black friend Starletta has even more to overcome, since racial prejudices do not change quickly.

    This slim volume about a self-reliant eleven-year-old packs quite a punch. The book is semi-autobiographical, based on Kaye Gibbons' challenging childhood in North Carolina.

    Interesting interview of Kaye Gibbons by the Star Tribune. It does contain some spoilers since she talks about her childhood.
    http://www.startribune.com/entertainm...


  6. Sara Sara says:

    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.



  7. [Shai] Bibliophage [Shai] Bibliophage says:

    I bought this book around 2006-2009 and it was just laying there on my book stack. I just read 2-3 pages and lost interest. After several years, I found this book on my storage and put it out to try if it can capture my interest now. Thank goodness that I gave this book a chance because I can't put it down once I start to read it. I was just busy so it was hard for me to finish reading it right away.

    Ellen is not your conventional type of kid because she thinks and speaks in a manner that is not like her age. I really find her story very interesting from what happened to her mom's overdosed until she finally found her adoptive mother.

    I was not surprised that this book has a fair rating here and that there are several reviews who didn't find this book to their liking. The way it was written was not that easy to understand due to the way how Ellen tells her story. Ellen's way of speaking is sort of unintelligible that's why I lost interest then. But who could have thought that this incomprehensible way of Ellen could make the book unique and quite engaging to read.


  8. Diane Barnes Diane Barnes says:

    Ellen Foster is like Scout Finch without the support system of Atticus, Jem, and Calpurnia. She's funny, courageous, level-headed, fair-minded and intelligent. With very little help from anyone, she gets herself out of a very bad situation and into a good one and teaches herself some valuable lessons along the way. I love Ellen Foster.


  9. Kathy Kathy says:

    I've read lots of reviews of this book that were really positive. All the quotes on the book itself are of course glowing with praise. It was an Oprah's Book Club selection. It got published. A friend chose it for book club. Many people apparently think this is a really amazing book. I'm not exactly sure what I'm missing here. I didn't hate it, but I was just kind of bored and not impressed. The good thing is that it was a very short and easy book to read so I didn't feel like I wasted a lot of time. If you want to read a book about poverty, abuse, and a dysfunctional family in the South with a girl that manages to get through it all successfully, I would highly recommend The Glass Castle. That's good reading. This just seemed overly simplistic and tidy. There were so many details missing. With all the talk about race, it seems strange that I was confused for for a lot of the book about what race the main character even was. I didn't feel like I really got a grasp on any of the characters. I'll be interested to go to book club and get an idea of what I'm missing here, because I seem to be in the minority.


  10. Betsy Robinson Betsy Robinson says:

    This is the first-person story of Ellen Foster, a ten- to eleven-year-old Southern girl whose mother commits suicide with the agreement of her abusive father. Ellen is tough, smart, and a survivor. After she is sent from the happy foster home of her art teacher to her mama's mama, a mean old woman, she says, . . . it was just her and me. Me to look after her not the other way around like you might expect. That did not surprise me because I had just about given up on what you expect. I just lived to see what would happen next.

    In a NY Times article about author Kaye Gibbons' problems with mental illness, her editor is quoted as saying Kaye is constitutionally incapable of falseness. Every word that flows from her lips is true. You can feel the truth of her truth in every word of this wonderful book.

    Here's the publisher's book page: http://algonquin.com/book/ellen-foster/


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