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Ellen Foster

3.72 of 5 stars 3.72  ·  rating details  ·  19,261 ratings  ·  1,103 reviews
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, sometime ...more
Hardcover, (Oprah's Book Club), 168 pages
Published January 12th 1987 by Algonquin Books (first published 1987)
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(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Angela M


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 fo
...more
Carol
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!
Irishcoda
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Connie
"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 diff
...more
Laura
What did I think? That's the question asked when reviewing a book on Goodreads. I freakin' loved it. It is now on my favorite shelf. I loved how she wished for eyes in the back of her head and she thought her head size was "just this side of a defect", how she gave herself a new name and how she "lived to see what would happen next". Ellen Foster her story, her voice....what is there not to love about this 10 year old?
Diane Barnes
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.
Kathy
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 ...more
Patricia
Jul 28, 2007 Patricia rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: people who don't think all movies should have a car chase
"Ellen Foster" is one of those books I have to re-read every few years. The understanding of a pre-pubescent and otherwise unlucky girl as she deals with the insanity of adult reality in the flatlandish southern US speaks of a seasoning beyond her years. Her transparent naivté is obviously predicated on the awareness of the writer herself, but then, the book is using the disingenuousness natural to a child to make observations about the adult world. This device, hardly new to the world when Kay ...more
Alberteinsteinmaloney
I picked this gem of a novel up at Borders' going out of business sale on my way home from work last night and devoured it -- cover to cover -- in a couple of hours. Eleven-year-old Ellen's uniquely insightful voice kept the tone of the novel from sinking into the saccharine sweetness of an annoyingly precocious child’s narrative. Her descriptions of attempted incest, rampant racism (often her own), and domestic violence are all the more horrific for the matter-of-fact way in which they are deta ...more
Steph
This is often presented to middle or high schoolers to read, but most will not make it without adult guidance. And I believe it takes an adult mind to appreciate the voice (the dialogue is always without quotation marks) and understand the flashbacks and half-child, half-woman asides.

Abandoned, precocious Ellen suffers through being shifted from one uncaring relative to another until she finds a true home with foster parents.

If I remember correctly, Gibbons wrote this while she was in her late
...more
Lisa (Harmonybites)
Aug 31, 2010 Lisa (Harmonybites) rated it 2 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Those Who Think Cormac McCarthy's the Bomb
Gibbons' style reminds me of Cormac McCarthy. For me, that's no compliment. There are no quotation marks around the dialogue, making it harder to keep track of, and almost no commas as far as the eye can see. Gibbons at least could claim a rationale for what in McCarthy I can only see as an affectation. The first person narrator, Ellen Foster, is a child, poor and uneducated, so at least one could say the punctuation impoverished style fits her.

That doesn't mean I found the novel a pleasure to
...more
Linda Lipko
If you are looking for a book to take your breath away, this is the one.

If you are looking for an exceptionally well-written novel wherein each phrase, each sentence, each paragraph contains poetic beauty, then this is the one.

If you are looking for a book that resonates deep within your soul, leaving you laughing, crying and simply not wanting it to end, then this is the book to read.

And, I'll go out on a huge limb to say that if you choose to read only one of my recommendations this year, plea
...more
Sarah Wheeler
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Lucy
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Diane S.
3.5 I loved this book pretty much from the first sentence, but it was this sentence that entrenched Ellen in my heart. ""What did you expect? Marry trash and see what comes of you. I could have told anybody." No young child should ever have the wisdom or the knowledge to say such a thing, and this perfectly explains how her life had been with her drunken father and sick mother.

This novel is in turn heartbreaking and amusing. Some of the things she says, the way she views things through her own
...more
Pamela
This Vintage Contemporaries novel, short in length but mighty in worth, is a bittersweet jewel. Ellen Foster, surviving and thriving despite the unfair circumstances she was dealt...repeatedly. Such a winning message: never lose your humor, courage, hope or determination. "While they were at the graveyard I decided that if I quit wasting time I could be happy as anybody else in the future, and right now with one year ending and a new one starting up I thought now was the time to get old Ellen sq ...more
Mmars
When there's an Oprah Book Club logo on the front of a book published in the late 80s and early 90s you know there's bound to be some tough stuff ahead. And young Ellen Foster is no exception. When her mother dies from an overdose of prescription drugs in which her father played some part, she is left in his end-stage alcoholic care. Or, more acurately, he is left in Ellen's care.

This book is all Ellen's. And her "voice" is remarkable. She is white southern, obviously on the wrong side of the t
...more
Kerrin
In the fiction book I read Ellen Foster by Kaye Gibbons, the main theme is determaination. This book revolves around a ten year old girl who learns is looking for a family to love her. The main character is Ellen Foster. She struggles with trama and abuse after her mother commits suicide.

The novel Ellen Foster focuses on a girl Ellen who struggles with abuse by her father After her mother commits suicide by overdosing on her pills. Ellen must find herself a loving home and family to take her
...more
Elisa
I would have never chosen this book- but the libray had "blind date with a book" week. A bunch of books wapped up, you pick one, check it out, and unwrap your blind date book. So, I chose the smallest book I could find.

I liked it, and i would recommend it to friends. I actually think this WOULD make a good book club read, there were alot of issues going on here that didn't have closure- so I think a good discussion could be had.

Negatives:
The narrator, who was supposed to be an 11 year old girl,
...more
Zoie
Mar 06, 2012 Zoie rated it 1 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: no one
Recommended to Zoie by: required reading
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Tabatha
Ellen Foster VintageBooks,1990,126pp.,$13.56
ISBN 0-7383-0477-8
Kaye Gibbons

“ When I was little I would think of ways to kill my daddy.” Ellen foster is not a homicidal girl out to kill her father, but a girl with a troubled past. She has to endure a life with her alcoholic father after her mother passes away. She moves from house to house trying to find a better life.
If you have ever lived with an alcoholic father then you might know just what Ellen is going through. If you could imagine a fa
...more
Londa

"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."


One of the best opening lines for a book I have ever read. Knocked me off my center of gravity right away, and I was left wondering what kind of evil little girl was I going to be reading about. With an opener like that you might also think this book was somber and hopeless. Somber...Sometimes, hopeless...NO. It turned out to be filled with hilarious
...more
Brandon Gonzalez
Ellen Foster is a very depressing book. The book consist of many present time and flashback situations. At first it can be very confusing. Sometimes i became frustrated with the book and stopped reading because i did not understand it, and moments later i would come back and finish it. As a young child, Ellen went through many harsh situations. She had to take care of her mother and father, and she was disliked by her whole family. Both of her parents died, and she was blamed for it. She was tha ...more
Annie Pliego
Incredibly written and heart-wrenching; beginning to end.

"When I was little I would think of ways to kill my daddy. I would figure it out this or that way and run it down through my head until it got easy. I did not go to the funeral but I imagined how bad the preacher must have felt to put my daddy in the same ground with good people born dead who get to be angels. And beside my mama. They shut the lid down hard on his and nail it nail it with the strongest nails. I say do all you can to keep
...more
Dolors
Ellen Foster is a ten year old girl who is rejected by all her family.
After the death of her weak- willed and sick mother she is left mostly on her own, her father being a drunk and violent man and her closer relations wash their hands off their responsibility.
A sad and heart-warming story, in which a little girl has to face the world and find her own place in it, keeping the illusion alive, in spite of her desolate surroundings.
Nothing new though.
Charity
This book was extremely hard to follow since it is told from a child's perspective with an extremely Southern drawl. You have to read most of it out loud to make sense of the dialogue, which is written out phonetically. Also, there are confusing flashbacks and flash forwards in the chapters that made me dizzy. I was thankful that the book was short because I might not have finished it otherwise.

If I could give this less than one star...I would!
Book Concierge
A heart-breaking story of triumph over adversity. A young girl from an abusive family dreams of being part of the Foster family she sees in church on Sundays ... the kids are all clean and their mother is polite and kind. So she signs her name "Ellen Foster" in hopes of making her dream come true.
Lisa Vegan
May 19, 2007 Lisa Vegan rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: everyone who cares about children
Little gem of a book and ultimately a very clever story about a horribly abused and neglected foster child. Ellen is incredibly resilient and she’s determined to find herself a loving home. The story isn’t depressing at all despite what its content would suggest. Loved this book.
MaryAnn
Wow. I felt as if I was reading another language. It is written in 'southern drawl' which makes this Yankee have to stop and think about what is written, or read out loud in a southern accent. TOUGH read.
Amanda L
What a compact little work of art on strife, growth and perspective. Here we have a tell-all confessional with what seem to be deliberately incomplete details conveyed through Gibbons' slightly unreliable but ever-endearing narrator, Ellen Foster. It's told stream-of-thought (but with distinct awareness of the reader) over the course of a couple of eventful and tortured years in this little girl's world.

I laughed and cried and all the while marveled at how deftly Gibbons handles the nuanced eff
...more
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Kaye Gibbons was born in 1960 in Nash County, North Carolina, on Bend of the River Road. She attended North Carolina State University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, studying American and English literature. At twenty-six years old, she wrote her first novel, Ellen Foster. Praised as an extraordinary debut, Eudora Welty said that "the honesty of thought and eye and feeling and ...more
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“I might be confused sometimes in my head but it is not something you need to talk about. Before you can talk you have to line it all up in order and I had rather just let it swirl around until I am too tired to think. You just let the motion in your head wear you out. Never think about it. You just make a bigger mess that way.” 41 likes
“Have you ever felt like you could cry because you know you just heard the most important thing anybody in the world could have spoke at that second?” 14 likes
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