BECOMING ELLEN by Shari Shattuck


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Ellen and her blind best friend, Temerity, again take on the wrongs of this world, letting neither emotional scarring nor physical disability stand in their way.

Ellen Homes is beginning to recover from the traumas of her upbringing within the dark underbelly of the foster-care system. Shattuck (Invisible Ellen, 2014) picks up the threads of Ellen’s tale with her second novel, exploring how Ellen’s friends and the universe conspire to pull her out of the shadows and into the light of social relationships. A horrific bus crash sets in motion a constellation of new crises for Ellen to reluctantly resolve. The crash forces Ellen into contact with not only a young girl (who will avoid struggles with the foster-care system, thanks to Ellen), but also a Detective Barclay, who could prove helpful, if only Ellen would bring herself to speak openly with him. Further, one of Ellen’s co-workers is likely selling drugs, another has discovered neither she nor her girlfriend can conceive a child, and a runaway with a bone-shaking cough has taken shelter in the basement of Temerity and Justice’s apartment building. Perhaps most frightening of all, Temerity’s friend Rupert seems to have asked Ellen out on a date. The prose is still heavy, like the weight of Ellen’s past burdens; we are reminded repeatedly that Ellen tries hard to stay invisible, that Ellen knows how kids get ensnared within the system, that Ellen uses food to comfort her roiling emotions, that Ellen finds social interactions exhausting. Yet the more Ellen is drawn out of her own head, the more the twists and turns of her life drive energy into the tale. Ellen turns her skill at seeming invisible to good use, bringing to light what others want hidden.

A tale of kindhearted, hesitant heroism, with a little vigilante justice.

Pub Date: Aug. 11th, 2015
ISBN: 978-0-399-16762-1
Page count: 304pp
Publisher: Putnam
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15th, 2015


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