Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “The Life All Around Me By Ellen Foster” as Want to Read:
The Life All Around Me By Ellen Foster
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

The Life All Around Me By Ellen Foster

(Ellen Foster #2)

3.16  ·  Rating details ·  1,621 ratings  ·  210 reviews
The cynical view of Kaye Gibbons's The Life All Around Me by Ellen Foster would be that the Poor Little Match Girl has morphed into Cinderella. Ellen Foster, a book anointed by Oprah's Book Club®, was the tale of young Ellen, daughter of a neurasthenic twit of a mother and a drunken abusive father, who was tossed out of her wicked aunt's home on Christmas Day (Shades of Di ...more
Kindle Edition, 240 pages
Published November 6th 2006 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (first published 2005)
More Details... Edit Details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about The Life All Around Me By Ellen Foster, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about The Life All Around Me By Ellen Foster

This book is not yet featured on Listopia. Add this book to your favorite list »

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 3.16  · 
Rating details
 ·  1,621 ratings  ·  210 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Start your review of The Life All Around Me By Ellen Foster
Sep 26, 2011 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I've decided that life is too short to read books I just can't get into. I have stacks of books I'm dying to start, so why plod through 250 pages of characters I cannot connect with, or writing that I stumble over.

I am sure this is a fine book, but the author's style is just one I cannot follow -- lots of first person narrative with sentences that just ramble on and on. yes, I know that is the style of the character, but i just don't have patience for it.
Mar 01, 2008 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: those with an exceptionally great attention span.
Shelves: waste-of-time
It was very difficult for me to stick with this book (and so I did not). I have given up trying to finish it. The writing style, in it's attempt to be unique, killed the book. In my frustration I actually felt like throwing it across the room...and I'm not the throwing type.
Apr 10, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This one shows the more flawed version of Ellen Foster. The first book showed the bigger than life Ellen Foster. Still liked it but hard to beat the first book. Glad the excerpt from the mother was included, silver lining.
Nov 30, 2011 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: library, audio, fiction
Let me start out by saying this.

This book is the sequel to Kaye Gibbons’s 1987 novel and 1997 Oprah’s Book Club pick Ellen Foster, which I absolutely loved and reviewed here and named as one of my best reads of 2008. (It took me awhile to get to it, despite it being on my TBR shelf for 11 years.) I adored Ellen Foster. So, naturally, you would think (as I did) that I would fall just as much in love with this one.

Not. Even. Close.

I had a hell of a time trying to follow this book, which picks up w
Nov 26, 2012 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
Would recommend: No, and I'm really sad about it

I am so disappointed in this book. I loved Ellen Foster SO MUCH, and I recommend that book all over the place, so when I saw this sequel at the used book store, I snatched it up right away. This book was so disorienting. The stream of consciousness that was so honest and interesting before was a jolt all the way through this time around. I couldn't keep anyone straight, and I felt like Ellen's affect was so flat. Other than a few sparkling, poignan
Sep 29, 2007 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
#3 01/07/06
GENRE/PUB DATE/# OF PGS: Fiction, 2005, 218 pgs
CHARACTERS: Ellen Foster, 15 yrs old
TIME/PLACE: 1975,small town in NC
COMMENTS: Very disappointing, I have loved some of Gibbons other books (Charms for the Easy Life, etc.) Maybe I never read Ellen Foster, can't remember. Ellen is now 15 and living a stable life w/ her guardian, Laura. The book starts out OK w/ a letter from Laura to the president of Harvard, r
Karen Germain
Dec 06, 2007 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I'm not sure that this book should even get one star.

This book came to me through another bookcrosser and I felt compelled to finish it. It was short. If it had not been short, I would have given up on it early.

I guess my main problem was the writing style. I couldn't connect to it on any level. The main character was irritating. The plot meandered...not in a good way. I simply didn't like this book.
Jul 10, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Last week, while perusing the shelves at the library, I was excited to find this book, The Life All Around Me by Ellen Foster. I had no idea there was a sequel to Ellen Foster that I read earlier this year. In this sequel, Ellen is 15 and navigating her teen years. Her foster mother, Laura, is Ellen's champion in all her endeavors especially where her education is concerned. And Ellen already has her sights set on early admission to Harvard. But, her reduced financial circumstances as an orphan ...more
Mar 14, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 18tbr, fiction
in this sequel, a precocious young girl remains haunted by the circumstances of her mother’s death even as her own new life provides security and opportunities. While Ellen retains her spunk, originality, and unique narrative style from the original story, this short book suffers from sequelitis, where new developments and revelations combine with updating the reader on all the characters and loose ends from the previous volume—an information overload for a fairly short book. If you loved the or ...more
Dec 17, 2018 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I tried to read this book, but it was a rambling mess. Kaye Gibbons is Bipolar and I’m wondering if this is the reason this book rambles. So many books, so little time...I’m moving on to my next read!
Book Concierge
Book on CD read by the author.

Nearly twenty years after the publication of Ellen Foster, Gibbons returns to her subject to catch us up on what’s happened in the life of this extraordinary character. Ellen is now fifteen and thriving. She’s exhausted the resources of her local school district, and is on an independent course of study. While she realizes it’s unusual, she has decided to apply for early admission to college, and may as well set her sights high. The novel opens with her letter to th
Nov 21, 2010 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Hmmm. I don't like the idea of some sequels. If it's not a series-type book, then shouldn't it just be a book? No need for a sequel to Pride & Prejudice, or The Time Traveler's Wife, or most novels.
Yes, some books end in a way that you are left wondering what happens next, but that is just the way stories go. Just because you could write another book about those characters, does not mean you should.
If you do it, it better be good.
This was not.
It wasn't horrible, but it definitely wasn't good an
Oct 07, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2009-reads
One of my very favorite books EVER is Ellen Foster. As a matter of fact, a few years ago, when a local theater group did a dramatization of it, I nearly didn't go, even though we had season tickets, because I didn't want it to be ruined for me. Fortunately, it was extremely well done, and when I talked to the guy who had done the adaptation afterwards, he said that he knew it had to be true to the book, since so many people he knew were dedicated to it.

Anyway, this book picks up Ellen's life aft
Kathryn in FL
Feb 07, 2018 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: not-a-fan
This sequel to "Ellen Foster" stunk. I am not usually so harsh but it read like a first draft. I just finished "Ellen Foster", which was witty, sardonic and sharp. Then, I pick up this clunker and I scratched my head. It started well, then diverts and rambles into various directions and for me, I kept thinking did I miss something? No, just the opportunity to spend my time elsewhere.

I can't fathom why this book fell so far short. Kaye Gibbons proved a worthy writer in "Ellen Foster" but now one
Lora Elisabeth
Jul 17, 2011 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: abandoned
The writing style of this book was even harder to decipher than the first book, Ellen Foster, so I stopped reading after about page 30.

However, I did FINALLY find out when the first book took place as this book plainly revealed the year. I spent the whole time reading Ellen Foster wondering, "What time period is this?!"

I really wanted to like these books, but the confusing writing style ruined it for me. I've read many books written in different dialects and have never had a hard time understand
I have never been so happy to finish a book, especially one this short. It's been some time since I read Ellen Foster but I remember liking it A LOT and remember Ellen as being ... endearing (I was also a big fan of Kaye Gibbons' A Virtuous Woman). The Ellen in this book is flat and emotionless, the story disjointed. Very disappointed. Worth skipping entirely. ...more
May 10, 2013 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I found the writing and dialogue style very difficult to follow. There's a reason writers use quotation marks, and it's to help demarcate spoken vs. internal dialogue. The whole book just left me feeling very...unsatisfied.
Anne Marie
Jan 20, 2019 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I wasn’t sure if I should give this book one or two stars. It was definitely not as good as the first book, Ellen Foster. I think the author should have left the first book be as it was. My biggest complaint about this second book is the way the author writes. I know this is Ellen writing the book from her point of view, but most of it didn’t make sense. It was like I had to get the main theme out of each chapter to know what was going on. Then read aimlessly the other parts.
Ellen is now 15 and
Benny Lum
Mar 11, 2019 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
The Life All Around Me by Ellen Foster is a sequel written by Kaye Gibbons that shows how Ellen Foster has moved on after the loss of her parents. In this book, Ellen is now a 15-year-old girl who has big dreams for the future. Strengthened by her past difficulties and her intelligence, Ellen has found a new mother and new home. While still dealing with the trauma, Ellen is determined to move on in the world around her and set her sights on Harvard as time goes by. Ellen also sells poetry to st ...more
Barb VanHorn
I loved Ellen Foster the first time I read it. Recently, I read it 2 more times to prepare to lead the discussion of the book in my book club. Again, I loved it. So, I agreed to lead the discussion of The Life All Around Me by Ellen Foster. This book was not so easy to read. I struggled with it - start it and stop it and start it again... However, I plan on reading it at least one more time, so that I might better understand the book. I always find new things that I missed the first time (not th ...more
This sequel to "Ellen Foster" is written from the viewpoint of Ellen herself. Because it's written in a stream of consciousness way with long sentences, I found myself reading fast, as if she was speaking it to me all in a rush. I had to keep telling myself to slow down and enjoy it. It tells of her life at 15 and gives some insight into growing up, her family, and at long-last, her mother. It's a funny and touching tale that grips your heart.
Dec 19, 2018 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: angsty
In a certain time, place, era, age a book or character creates a masterpiece. Something that nothing else can ever compare to ever again. It shines so bright nothing can dull it's beauty. But Because a place changes, people grow up, an era is gone, circumstances change, or its a continuance of a story you have already read. The second book cannot compare to or compete for the first book Ellen Foster.
Feb 23, 2020 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
The second book in the Ellen Foster duo. I liked the first better, as I had a hard time getting through this one. Ellen is older now, and although she’s settled in with Laura, her foster mother, she’s still struggling with dealing with life after her mother’s death. Most memorable parts of this book include a trip to the fair with her childhood friends and some new information about her mother that’s revealed towards the end of the book.
Jun 20, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
The original "Ellen Foster" was a favorite and this just didn't meet my expectations. I liked it but the story was difficult to follow and there were places were I felt the authors was speeding along throwing out dialogue just to get it out in case she didn't get another chance. It was an easy and fast read - entertaining but just not great.
Jun 14, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I think I've been reading too many adult novels from the perspective of a child lately. I still think Kaye Gibbons is a great author, but this story didn't move me as much as others she has written. About a very smart girl with extremely limited experience and resources, trying to figure out how to continue to grow in her small town environment.
Sandra Firrito
I just couldn’t read this book. I forced myself to pick up speed on it since I work with foster children and felt that the book would be compelling to read. I’m sorry that I couldn’t finish it. I just had a hard time with the flow of the writing and it just didn’t hold my interest long enough to get through what I thought would be a quick read.
Brandi Collins
I adored "Ellen Foster," so I wanted to love this book too. I just didn't. The story itself was good, but the rambling writing style that made "Ellen Foster" unique (as if told by a child) made this book hard to follow. I would have hoped that our protagonist, Ellen, would have grown up and learned how to coherently express her thoughts at age 15. While the story was difficult to follow, I enjoyed the perseverance that young Ellen shows to fight for her future despite her rough beginning.
Cis Hinkle
I like Ellen as a character, but found the style of including conversation without punctuation made it challenging to keep track of who was speaking. I think an audio version (in which the narrator figures it out for me and presents the characters with their own distinctive voice) would have been more fun.
Mariela Oleson
May 04, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

The book was well written. The prose was interesting and flowed like a brook , at times like a river and even the sea at high tide.
I found Ellen Foster's story to be moving and challenging. Full of woe and challenges she found hope and happiness. Absolutely loved it!
Oct 12, 2019 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I loved Ellen Foster but could not, for the life of me, get inky this one. It’s just.not.good.
It felt like it was written by a different author entirely. I rarely give up on books but gave up on this one 45 pages in.
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »

Readers also enjoyed

  • The Bee Cottage Story: How I Made a Muddle of Things and Decorated My Way Back to Happiness
  • A Poem in Your Pocket
  • How Many Seeds in a Pumpkin?
  • The Dinosaur Expert
  • The Apple Orchard Riddle
  • 500 Miles from You
  • The Real Jane Austen: A Life in Small Things
  • Miss Austen
  • Stardew Valley Guidebook
  • The Little Women Cookbook: Tempting Recipes from the March Sisters and Their Friends and Family
  • Meditations In Wonderland
  • The Basque Dragon (The Unicorn Rescue Society, #2)
  • Acid West
  • How I Live Now
  • All the Young Men
  • The Only Black Girls in Town
  • A Man
  • In the Country of Women
See similar books…
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

Other books in the series

Ellen Foster (2 books)
  • Ellen Foster

Related Articles

Need another excuse to treat yourself to a new book this week? We've got you covered with the buzziest new releases of the day. To create our lis...
29 likes · 15 comments
“In closing, I hope everything helps show that I wouldn’t be a fade-out or a person who turns to think to drink or dope when things get tough. I believe that anything is possible if you have the combination of love for what you’re doing and the will to sit down and not get up until it’s done….” 2 likes
More quotes…