Monday, March 27, 2017
Ellen has it rough. She is only nine years old when her mother dies of an overdose of heart medicine. Her father is an abusive drunk. Ellen fantasizes about killing him and is finally forced to run away when he starts making sexual advances.
She finds a temporary home with her art teacher, but is soon taken and placed with her grandmother on her mother's side.
The grandmother is a mean old woman who hates Ellen's father and blames Ellen for the mother's death. Ellen tries to be a good but the grandmother is unyielding. Ellen's father dies and even that doesn't improve the grandmother's feelings towards her granddaughter. However, the old woman is soon dead too.
Ellen is next placed with her maternal aunt but things don't get any better. The aunt and her daughter are not welcoming and things come to a head one Christmas when the only gift Ellen receives is a package of drawing paper. Although it is exactly what she said she wanted when her aunt asked her what she would like for Christmas, Ellen had a childish fantasy that her aunt and cousin would realize they loved her and buy her some nice presents. After an angry confrontation, her aunt kicks Ellen out. Ellen sets off to find the love and acceptance that has been lacking all her young life.
This was a pretty good story. From the beginning of the story, Ellen has apparently found the family she has been craving as she describes her life with "new mama." She has her own bedroom, nicely decorated. There is plenty of good, wholesome food and new mama treats Ellen and the other kids in the house with love and patience and kindness. The house is kept clean and tidy, the kids are also clean and properly dressed, everything is orderly and disciplined and new mama seems to be the real deal. But is she a real person or just the fantasy figure of a little girl desperate for a loving home?
See also https://www.kirkusreviews.com/book-reviews/kaye-gibbons-6/ellen-foster/.