Becoming Ellen by Shari Shattuck: A Review
My Goodreads goal is half of what I made it last year. As much as I love reading and as many books as I try to read, sometimes I just don't get in as many pages as I'd prefer. To be a bit more successful this year, instead of focusing on a total number of books to read I'm aiming to read at least three nights per week before I go to bed. I figure that can get me anywhere from one to three books each month. The first review of 2016 is a book I started in 2015 but ended in the first week of January. Becoming Ellen is an interesting view inside a woman's life who is used to being a loner. Here's a quick description before I say more...
What Goodreads Says
Ellen Homes is done being invisible. Well, sort of.
Living with her closest friends, Temerity and Justice, has helped her step out of the shell of invisibility she once hid away in. She still seeks refuge in solitary time and observing from afar, but she has pushed herself to open up to others in ways that bring her unexpected happiness.
But when a terrible bus crash upends her normal routine, Ellen finds herself on a whirlwind crusade for the unseen and downtrodden. Only this time, helping others—including two young children with no one else to turn to—will mean facing a pain from her past that she’s long tucked away.
Picking up where Invisible Ellen left off, Becoming Ellen returns us to the touching, poignant, and compassionate world of Ellen Homes as she learns how to navigate the world she has decided to become a part of.
What I Say
Normally I can relate to characters I read about but in the case of Ellen Homes, I couldn't find any common ground which wasn't necessarily a bad thing. I learned a lot about a character far unlike myself and in so doing found a lot of respect for her growth. Ellen starts off as an average middle-aged woman who doesn't involve herself in anyone's business, even if it could save someone's life. That is, until she ends up in a bus crash where she helped save three different people, one of which is a little girl she makes sure is cared for in the end. Ellen had a rough life. She had a terrible mother, uncle and experience with the foster care system. She's basically learned to keep herself invisible so that no one can do anything to her. It's a defense mechanism that she's held onto since childhood.
The two things that I couldn't wrap my brain around: her relationship with food and her fear of society. There is a part in the novel that describes the feelings that food gives her, how it cures her anxiety and stress. I'm a foodie but the only thing that gets me kicking is a nice cup of coffee in the morning. It was really hard for me to understand that carbs and sugar can have such an emotional connection with someone. I also couldn't figure out how she wanted nothing to do with society. After finishing the book, I came to understand why and I'm amazed she was able to keep herself from participating in regular human interaction for so long. That's why, seeing her growth from beginning to end was inspiring to me. If this woman can get over deep fears embedded from cruel treatment in childhood, anyone really can do anything. I became proud of Ellen where I was at first judgmental.
Becoming Ellen isn't a tear jerking love story. It wasn't a thrilling mystery. It wasn't a laugh until you pee your pants memoir. It was an honest story about a real person. It was fiction but the story had an element of truth to it. In reality, we all have a little bit of Ellen in us. We're all afraid of something, even if it's something small like wearing that amazing dress we've had sitting in our closet far too long. Just like Ellen, we can overcome it. It just takes a little encouragement from the people in our lives and a little bit of confidence in ourselves.