The Life All Around Me by Ellen Foster (Magill's Literary Annual 2007)
In The Life All Around Me by Ellen Foster, Kaye Gibbons revisits the memorable character that she introduced to a wide readership nearly twenty years ago. In that earlier novel, Ellen Foster (1987), the title character, an eleven-year-old girl from rural North Carolina, recounted the story of her early life with a suicidal mother and abusive father. Relying almost completely on her own native intelligence and personal perceptive powers, however, Ellen managed to survive the loss of both parents, the active malevolence of her grandmother, the indifference of her aunt, and the complacent incompetence of the social service system, eventually to build some semblance of a happy home life in foster care.
In this second novel, Ellen, now fifteen years old, is confronted with a new set of challenges, each one related to her new identity as a teenager. In some ways, this second volume in the author’s coming-of-age saga can be compared to J. D. Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye (1951). In fact, Ellen herself forces this comparison when she refers repeatedly to the sixteen-year-old protagonist of that earlier work, Holden Caulfield, as if his situation were similar to hers.
In fact, Ellen Foster is essentially the antithesis of Holden Caulfield. While he is cynical and misanthropic, convinced that he is living in a world...
(The entire section is 1797 words.)
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Bibliography (Magill's Literary Annual 2007)
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