Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Book Review: Ellen Foster

November 21, 2007

What took me so long to read this book by Kaye Gibbons? I really have no idea. I went through a Kaye Gibbons reading spree several years ago with A Virtuous Woman, A Cure for Dreams, Charms for the Easy Life, and On the Occasion of My Last Afternoon. I think maybe Ellen Foster had recently been a Hallmark movie when I discovered Gibbons in a collection of short stories by Southern women, and I suppose I gravitated toward her works that were not yet movies. Anyway, last week Kaye Gibbons came to speak at our local college, so we thought it appropriate in our Book Club that we would read Ellen Foster. (Amazingly, none of us had read it already.) Well, we are all hopeless procrastinators and didn't read it before the program, but she was a wonderful speaker anyway.

But I did pick up the book as soon as I got home (and discovered that it had arrived in the mail) and thoroughly enjoyed it. Enjoyed it, that is, as much as you can enjoy the story of a young girl who has, at age 11, experienced nothing but pain, trauma, and heartbreak. It is only when she finally becomes an orphan that she is able to find a family who will truly nurture and care for her. Reading this novel after hearing Gibbons speak was especially enjoyable. I could hear her very distinct Southern drawl narrating, and I could even picture her writing the novel. She told us that she wrote this while literally nursing two babies at a time.

Ellen Foster
was definitely not my favorite Gibbons novel, but it is an excellent read along the lines of (but nowhere near as painful as) Dorothy Allison's Bastard Out of Carolina.

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