The Life All Around Me by Ellen Foster
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The triumphant return of the New York Times bestselling novel’s orphaned heroine—“the Southern Holden Caulfield . . . the female Huck Finn” (Bookmarks Magazine).
Ellen Foster, fifteen years old, formidable, and back in North Carolina with a loving new foster mother, has written to the president of Harvard, asking for early admission. Having already crammed a lot of tragedy, adversity, and trauma into her young years, surely she’s due something.
In the meantime, she’s got a lot on her plate: composing poetry and selling it to classmates; trying to tactfully back away from a marriage proposal from her best friend; administering compassion to a slow-witted neighbor who’s found herself pregnant; and planning ahead for a writing camp for the gifted. Fueled by an indomitable spirit, undeterred by a naiveté she refuses to acknowledge, and patiently waiting on word from Mr. Derek Bok about her admission to the Ivy League, Ellen is going to continue to cram, while plotting her own deliverance from a town she knows in her heart she’s outgrown.
Alice Hoffman, in The New York Times Book Review, said Ellen Foster “may be the most trustworthy character in recent fiction.” After her debut in Kaye Gibbons’s Ellen Foster— awarded the Sue Kaufman Prize from the American Academy of Arts and Letters and a special citation from the Ernest Hemingway Foundation, and chosen for Oprah Winfrey’s book club—Ellen returns in this unforgettable sequel.



Publié par
Date de parution 06 novembre 2006
Nombre de lectures 3
EAN13 9780547541433
Langue English

Informations légales : prix de location à la page 0,0075€. Cette information est donnée uniquement à titre indicatif conformément à la législation en vigueur.


Table of Contents
Title Page
Table of Contents
Letter to President Derek C. Bok
Christmas Eve 1975
About the Author
Copyright © 2006 by Kaye Gibbons
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopy, recording, or any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher.
For information about permission to reproduce selections from this book, write to Permissions, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company, 215 Park Avenue South, New York, New York 10003.
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters (including Doctor Derek Bok), places, organizations, and events are the products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously for verisimilitude, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
The Library of Congress has cataloged the print edition as follows: Gibbons, Kaye, 1960– The life all around me by Ellen Foster/Kaye Gibbons.—1st ed. p. cm. 1. Teenage girls—Fiction. 2. Foster home care—Fiction. 3. Poetry—Authorship—Fiction. 4. North Carolina—Fiction. I. Title. PS3557.I13917L54 2006 813'54—dc22 2005014552 ISBN-13: 978-0151-01204-6 ISBN-10: 0-15-101204-0
eISBN 978-0-547-54143-3 v1.0813
For Barbara Sue Atkins Allen Batts
The town lady with all the names ,
Who prefers life and fabric textured .
For my daughters, Mary, Leslie, and Louise ,
Why and how I do this .
And with all thanks to Connie May Fowler ,
Who led me to Joy Harris ,
Who led me to Ann Patty ,
Who led to this, this next one, the one after that.. .
September 20, 1974
President Derek C. Bok
Harvard University
Cambridge, Massachusetts
Dear President Bok,
My name is Ellen Foster. I hope this finds you happy, in good health, and thriving in picturesque New England. It is not quite as scenic here in my part of North Carolina, also known as Variety Vacationland, but this is because I live in the flat, blank section between the Atlantic Ocean and the Great Smokey Mountains, which team up to account for the Variety.
One of my mottoes is that nothing you think, feel, or do should be watered down, so when I decided to try out for college, Harvard sounded like the only place to be. The main reason I’m returning my information to you instead of the correct office is because there happen to be some things off the average about me and I needed to make sure you know they’re reality. Wanting to start Harvard at only fifteen could seem like a tale, for example, but it’s true and I believe it makes sound sense because of all the surplus living that was jammed into the years.
My childhood was the kind that saturates you with quick ambition to think through and begin the next episode of your life, although I’ve been trying to seize each day and appreciate it more as is. A compare and contrast would be trying to break the trend of picking through oranges and handling them until you believe you’ve finally come across the perfect example to taste. Those years also made me into an individual who wouldn’t be disdone by the large experience of leaving my road to go learn amid ten thousand or so older strangers, not to say anything is currently the matter. Everything has definitely been on the up in up, but even if I was trying to escape pressing hardship at home or a checkered reputation at school, I wouldn’t select Harvard to go on the lam.
A person who graduated from there was supposed to grade how close I come to being Harvard material, and I need to let you know I went to town to meet the man we have, but when I got to his nursing home I found him unaware. He’d had another stroke the day before and is now locked in a state of deep coma, but if another one crops up before the deadline, I’ll get them to create an opinion and send it to you immediately. The bookmobile librarian who told me about the man is keeping her eyes peeled, but for now, I’d appreciate it if you could please allow this letter to count toward the missing point of view.
If the man had been able to ask why I felt motivated toward Harvard, I would’ve said I want to be exposed to harder teachers who have strict yet interesting requirements and a student body that thrives on curiosity. It’d be fascinating to be in a lunchroom with people sharing information about simple miracles, such as the smallpox and hookworm vaccinations, or having someone speak up and tell about a family vacation to Crete. In fact, my goal is to study both English and medicine and then enter the field of epidemic disease research. I see myself going into the wilds of places like Bali or Tahiti to research folk customs of medical cures and deliver vaccines as well as lessons on both nutrition and poetry.
To reach this ideal, what I believe I need to do now is go ahead and enter a future where people share a love of living more in the mind and see a value in studying things that never sound required for survival on the surface, such as how Socrates talked with his philosophical pupils. I can only imagine the daily awe of learning while surrounded by marble columns featuring the sayings of Aristotle, Homer and others, New England fall foliage, and perhaps some flying buttresses. It sounds urgent, but it’s only because the best time to leave is almost here. The present situation is I’m at the threshold of completing nine years at my rural school and crossing the real and symbolic road to enter the high school. I could easily turn toward town and the train station instead, where the map says the train lets out a very walkable sliver of distance from Harvard, unless a night arrival or books I may need to bring in the baggage make it wiser to flag a taxi for the campus dormitory or female rooming house, depending on what each would be asking.
Going on to the brief narration of my background section, I need to let you know not to read mine and think this girl’s trying to create a mood of shock and sympathy to gain a free ride or discount. The summary is that my mother became too sad and died when I was nine, and ordinary life got and stayed unusual for the two years it took to track down the steady foster situation I still enjoy here. Things in between include moving out of the house due to my father’s problems and then his death due to a sudden head vein explosion the next year, living with an aunt who didn’t have raising another girl in mind, living with my art teacher and then getting moved out of there because of judicial branch confusion, getting assigned to live with my grandmother who soon sickened, lingered, and died, loving school as well as close friends throughout, reading like a fiend, having to move out of another house on Christmas and walking up the road to the house of girls run by a foster lady, thus my name Ellen Foster.
If I had the job of selecting a well-rounded group of individuals to come to my college, I would worry about an underage orphan with a list of obstacles showing up and being a misfit, but I want to emphasize that I get along well both at school and at home. My foster mother is not pleased with my educational outlook and has tried to correct it on this end, but the private school here is the Academy of the New Dawn Apocalypse, and the school board said forced busing was enough upheaval so they cannot allow students to bend the rules to skip grades or change schools, unless a person needs Braille material or rails. When I asked her about Harvard, she said she’d seen college careers pan out for several piano and mathematical prodigies on public television, so nothing would be lost by me giving it a try with only offering more general skills of the mind. I realize that it could not be more expensive, which is why I need to emphasize that I know how to work and don’t at all mind it.
On a typical morning at Harvard, for example, I could put in a few hours at the cafeteria, working the breakfast tray line, or at the gym, handing out baskets, although I have more experience in the library. I’ve been trained in all areas from ordering from the state depository to changing bulletin boards and worked in there alone for the three months of the librarian’s knee surgery and malpractice case, and as she is now wheelchair bound and so much of a library involves reaching, I catch her up on a range of her daily duties. If you do not have the Dewey decimal system, I’d quickly adapt to your procedure. There’s also the school store and canteen, and I’ve worked in the concession stand at high school sports games and during a series of wrestling extravaganzas in town and Billy Graham crusade shows.
Besides the current weekend jobs in home and church cleaning and magazine sales, I collect and write the school news, which runs each Saturday. It pays next to nothing, although everybody says the savings I can put toward Harvard from the cleaning, the food service, and magazines would pay for an ordinary education, if that’s what I was after. I enclosed a copy of my column, Ellen’s Tellin, to check on the possibility of getting on at the paper up there. One last idea is alth

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