Friday, March 27, 2009

Ellen Foster by Kaye Gibbons

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.

The way I liked best was letting go a poisonous spider in his bed. It would bite him and he'd be dead and swollen up and I would shudder to find him so. Of course I would call the rescue squad and tell them to come quick something's the matter with my daddy. When they come in the hosue I'm all in a state of shock and just don't know how to act what with two colored boys heaving my dead daddy onto a roller cot. I just stand in the door and look like I'm shaking all over.

This book was just over 100 pages long, which is the primary reason I read it last weekend. After spending 4,567 days (seemingly) reading The Monster of Florence, I was ready for a wham-bam-thank you ma'am kind of book. And it was on my shelf and I told myself I had to read all the books I own before I buy books again (only 78...102...something... to go!)

This book had a lot of promising reviews. One journalist compared Ellen to Holden Caulfield. I don't know about that. Ellen is 11, and Holden wanted to get with Sally. Ellen is self-sufficient and basically raises herself for a while, and Holden got kicked out of school. Ellen is desperately poor and Holden likes to tom-cat around New York City talking to prostitutes. If Ellen met a prostitute, she'd never get bullied into paying more than $5. Especially if all they did was talk.

Gibbons' story begins with the passage above. Ellen's drunkard of a father bullies her mother, who dies early in the book from stress and a preexisting heart condition. Ellen is perfectly content to live in her house, shopping and cooking for herself, until her father starts to hit her and his drunken friends start to notice her young body. When teachers notice her bruises and the truth comes out, Ellen embarks on a journey to belong somewhere permanently. After noticing a mismatched family at church that other members refer to as "the foster family" Ellen decides that is the one for her. She starts signing her papers "Ellen Foster" thinking that "the foster family" is "the Foster family."

Okay so full disclosure: I'm very tired and kind of drunk and there's a game on TV. This short, disjointed review is due in large part to those factors. Good night and good luck.


Chloe said...

hahah the last line was lovely.

Would you recommend this book for a gal who has been too busy (or too lazy) to read and wants to get back to that, but doesn't want to be overwhelmed. (This "gal" is a bit demanding.)

Meagan said...

sure! ellen's style of speaking is hard to get used to at first, but its still a quick read and very "literary" - especially if you like southern lit

Nathan said...

Blame it on the Oranjeboom.

Anonymous said...

I'm not much of a reader but I love this book!