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The Life All Around Me by Ellen Foster
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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 Dickens!). Plucky Ellen fetcheed up at the doorstep of her chosen foster mother and life settled down.
This book begins with a too cute, aggressively innocent letter to Derek Bok, President of Harvard University, asking for early admission. Now that Ellen is 15, she believes that she is ready for a larger world, a better education and a different life. That pursuit becomes an incidental subtext to ongoing events. The next two-thirds of the book feels experimental, with a jumpy, jerky style, information left out, information left in that goes nowhere--not easy reading. Then, Gibbons takes control of her story and turns everything upside down, in Ellen's favor.
There are some priceless exchanges in the book. Regarding an insight that comes to one for the first time: "It didn't matter if a thousand scholars studied how Madame Bovary probably wouldn't have had to rot from the inside if she'd read better books in her girlhood, if the idea strikes you in Baltimore in a room full of people who say they already know, my theory is it's still your personal view." And this, when she is annoying her friend, Stuart: "Stuart, I said, I never know what to do when you decide to let me in on an argument you've been having for us."
So, what does all of this add up to? A good, not great, sequel to the quite good Ellen Foster that is only an adjective away from mawkishness and sentimentality. If we adopt the aforementioned cynical view, the story becomes a treacly fable where the good prevail--and even get rich. A more generous view is that Ellen has suffered enough and it's her turn. Read it and take your pick. --Valerie RyanFrom the Back Cover:
"Same spunk. Same sass. Same winning charm. Ellen looks at life through both barrels and aims straight on . . . in this fascinating tale of grit and determination." The News & Observer (Raleigh, NC)
In this sequel to Gibbons s beloved classic Ellen Foster, Ellen, now fifteen, is settled into a permanent home with a new mother. Strengthened by adversity and blessed with enough intelligence to design a salvation for herself, she still feels ill at ease. But while she holds fast to the shreds of her childhood, she begins to negotiate her way into a larger world. With a singular mix of perspicacity, naivete, and compassion, Ellen draws us into her life and makes us fall in love with her all over again.
"[Ellen Foster] is a few years older, a bit wiser to the ways of the world and just as compelling." St. Louis Post-Dispatch
"As [Ellen] uses her considerable resources to move toward understanding and to react, equally, to old losses and sudden good fortune we re right there with her." Chicago Tribune
KAYE GIBBONS is the author of seven bestselling novels. Her first novel, Ellen Foster, was awarded the Sue Kaufman Prize from the American Academy of Arts and Letters and a special citation from the Ernest Hemingway Foundation. That novel, as well as A Virtuous Woman, was chosen for Oprah s Book Club. Gibbons lives in Raleigh, North Carolina.
Reading Group Guide Inside and at www.HarcourtBooks.com.
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Book Description Books on Tape. Audio CD. Condition: New. Never used!. Seller Inventory # P11141592452X