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Ellen Foster
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Group Reads: Post-1980 > Final Impressions: Ellen Foster, by Kaye Gibbons– February 2020

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message 1: by Tom, "Big Daddy" (new)

Tom Mathews | 2554 comments Mod
Comments on this board are made with the assumption that readers have finished the book and may include spoilers.


message 2: by Ann (new) - rated it 5 stars

Ann Rahfeldt | 3 comments I hadn't heard of this one but wanted to read it especially because I knew the author was a North Carolina author. I really liked the book, especially the way Ellen spoke.


Lori Keeton | 372 comments I am 2 chapters to finishing. Was falling asleep last night and wanted to be fresh to finish! I think Ellen’s voice is such a mix of wanting to be a kid but having to be the adult.


John (jwarner6comcastnet) | 144 comments The protagonist of this poignant novella is Ellen, a fifth grade who, like Little Orphan Annie, has a "hard-knock life" physically abused by an alcoholic father and neglected by a mother frequently in bed with depression. Although one might believe that this work would be a depressing read, the mood is lightened with Ellen's musings, such as the opening lines:

"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."

Much of the novella is an interweaving of three time periods including after she is placed in a foster home, which she described as a place where "nobody barks, farts, or feeds the dogs under the table..." I had no difficulty keeping track of the various time frames.

Essentially, this first five-star read is about one poor, but resilient, white Southern girl who desperately seeks a family and a mother to replace the one she loss. Her longing brought tears to my eyes, but the satisfying ending makes this work a must read.


message 5: by Cathrine ☯️ (last edited Feb 10, 2020 02:19PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Cathrine ☯️  | 604 comments I began this with a hard copy then switched to the audio about half way through. The narration was excellent and made me wish I had started that way. There were some great lines; it was sad, endearing, and funny all at once despite the heavy subject matter and over almost too quickly. The ending was so satisfying.
“And all this time I thought I had the hardest row to hoe.”


message 6: by Diane, "Miss Scarlett" (new) - rated it 5 stars

Diane Barnes | 3968 comments Mod
This book is a jewel, and was Kay Gibbons first novel. I've read it twice, and Ellen almost, but not quite, beat out Scout Finch as my favorite literary child. That first line was a winner, John. How could you not love a kid like that? Lord knows Ellen had good reasons for wishing her father dead.


Cathrine ☯️  | 604 comments One of the prompts for the 2020 Popsugar challenge is to read a book with a great first line so when I read "When I was little I would think of ways to kill my daddy" I knew I could check that one off. :)


message 8: by Sara, "Ivy Rowe" (new) - rated it 5 stars

Sara (phantomswife) | 1079 comments Mod
Loved Ellen's voice, which was so genuine. Also thought Gibbons handled the racial facet of this book remarkably well. (view spoiler)


message 9: by Tracey (last edited Feb 10, 2020 09:17PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Tracey (traceyrb) | 31 comments There was so much about Ellen to love; the way she tried to make her grandmother nicer for God, how she laid down by the side of her mother and didn’t abandon her even though she was effectively an abandoned child herself. And the foster mother was the sort of mother every child deserves.
I understand the book is autobiographical in that it is the authors way of addressing her own mother’s suicide, and that made it all the more powerful.


message 10: by Sara, "Ivy Rowe" (new) - rated it 5 stars

Sara (phantomswife) | 1079 comments Mod
My edition of the book had an afterward by Gibbons and sadly much of what Ellen felt came directly from Gibbons' own life.

"she laid down by the side of her mother and didn’t abandon her even though she was effectively an abandoned child herself." So true, Tracey...and then to be blamed and made to feel guilty by the grandmother. Of all the bad people she encountered, I think I hated the grandmother the most. The fact that Ellen took care of her instead of mistreating her when she was ill was a huge comment on the loving soul in this abused little girl.


message 11: by Camie (new) - added it

Camie | 101 comments I couldn’t find my copy to reread it this time but that is a first line you never forget.


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