Monday, January 23, 2012

Ellen Foster by Kaye Gibbons

This is a short little volume that is told in a unique narrative style.  Ellen is the main character and as she tells her tragic life story, she switches from present to past, to a more recent past and around and around.  As a reader you're not sure of the timeline and how long different periods last.  There are two Christmases, but I imagine the whole story takes place over about 18 months.  It is set in the rural South, I would have thought in like the 1950's, but then there is a reference to the 60's, so my best guess is mid 1970's.

I liked it pretty well.  I think maybe it would be better suited for studying in school where you could discuss how the narrative added to or distracted from the story.  You could have students create their own timeline and piece together what is going on.  I can imagine good book club discussions about it.

The story itself is very sad.  Ellen is 10 then 11 and her mom dies first, her father is a monster and alternately treats her horribly or just neglects her.  She is of course a resilient character and works hard to make things work out.  Every family member who takes her in is bad to her. 

"Everything was so wrong like somebody had knocked something loose and my family was shaking itself to death.  Some wild ride broke and the one in charge strolled off and let us spin and shake and fly off the rail."

Ulitmately, she saves herself and it has a happy ending.  In such a short time you do see growth and more understanding in Ellen.  I liked her as a character. 

"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?"


Has anyone else read it?  It's only 126 pages long, and I read it in just a couple hours.


Tales of a Trophy WIfe said...

I read it years ago. I liked it, but not as much as Charms for an Easy Life.

Sharlene, Mom, Grammy said...

Let me just say that you do s marvelous job of critiquing books. :) Thanks so much.

Amy said...

I just read this one (upon your suggestion, of course). What I liked most about the book was the narrator going back and forth between present and past. I usually don't like that style, but it worked. It was perfect for my co-dependent leanings. I could handle reading the sad parts because I knew this little girl would be okay in the end.