A Cure for Dreams

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Overview

In her novels Ellen Foster and A Virtuous Woman, Kaye Gibbons has compiled what one critic has called "a fictional oral history of female wishes [and] hopes." That tradition continues in A Cure for Dreams, a richly woven story that traces the bonds between four generations of Southern women through stories passed from mother to daughter to granddaughter. Gibbons shows us shrewd, resourceful women prevailing over hard times and heartless men and finding unexpected pleasures along the way: gossip, gambling, and the...
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A Cure for Dreams

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Overview

In her novels Ellen Foster and A Virtuous Woman, Kaye Gibbons has compiled what one critic has called "a fictional oral history of female wishes [and] hopes." That tradition continues in A Cure for Dreams, a richly woven story that traces the bonds between four generations of Southern women through stories passed from mother to daughter to granddaughter. Gibbons shows us shrewd, resourceful women prevailing over hard times and heartless men and finding unexpected pleasures along the way: gossip, gambling, and the quiet satisfaction of knowing more than they're supposed to.

In her novels Ellen Foster and A Virtuous Woman, Gibbons compiled what one critic has called "a fictional oral history of female wishes {and} a sustaining genealogy of women's hopes." That tradition continues in this richly woven story that traces the bonds between four generations of Southern women.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Further enchancing her reputation as a chronicler of small-town life in the South, Gibbons ( Ellen Foster ) limns an engaging portrait of a possessive mother and her obedient daughter as the foreground of a larger canvas depicting women's roles in a society bound by tradition, convention and poverty. Deliberately old-fashioned in prose style, down to the chapter headings reminiscent of 19th-century novels, this slim volume is narrated by Betty Randolph, who tells of her domineering mother's life: how she rejected her husband after Betty was born and was relieved to be left a young widow and the ``queen bee'' of the community; how mother and daughter became inseparable, until Betty was in her 20s and suddenly realized she was on her way to spinsterhood. The plot is a series of loosely connected vignettes, enlivened by Betty's tart comments and the pithy aphorisms of plain country folk (of an officious woman, Betty says, ``I`m sure when she died and entered heaven she asked to see the upstairs''). Gibbons conveys the atmosphere of the Depression and World War II with frequent comments about Presidents Hoover and FDR, and such period detail as the birth of the Dionne quintuplets. Though entertaining, the novel is short on suspense, however; one of the few instances of narrative tension turns on the question of why Betty's suitor has blue lips. (Mar.)
Library Journal
This episodic novel, Gibbons's third, is set during the Depression in back-country Virginia and Kentucky. In 19 vignettes, Betty Davies Randolph reveals her childhood and her mother's life along Milk Farm Road. Gibbons, winner of several literary awards for her first novel Ellen Foster LJ 4/15/87, has captured magnificently the dailiness and sense of community of rural life--from midwives and WPA ballads to suicides and men gone wild. Southern, and full of the folk wisdom of generations, Gibbons's voice reveals life's truths: ``Listen and hear what men call their wives. . . . It's easier without a mother at a borning. . . . The ears are the most important parts of a baby.'' Times are tough--Betty's father kills himself and is found upside down on his head in the river with ``rocks on either side, like bookends''--but the women are amazingly resilient; they help each other survive. As an old woman, Betty dies in ``her chair talking, chattering like a string-pull doll,'' but the reader is assured that the storytelling will go on through her daughter and ``the sounds of the women talking.'' Recommended.-- Doris Lynch, Oakland P.L . , Cal.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780679736721
  • Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 6/28/1992
  • Series: Vintage Contemporaries Series
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 192
  • Product dimensions: 5.15 (w) x 8.00 (h) x 0.48 (d)

Meet the Author

Kaye  Gibbons
Kaye Gibbons was born in Nash County, North Carolina, and attended North Carolina State University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel HIll. Her first novel, Ellen Foster, was awarded the Sue Kaufman Prize of the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters and a special citation from the Ernest Hemingway Foundation. Gibbons was awarded the PEN/Revson fellowship for A Cure for Dreams, and has been the recipient of a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship. She is also the author of the novel A Virtuous Woman. A writer-in-residence at the LIbrary of North Carolina State University, she lives with her three daughters in Raleigh.

Biography

In 1987, a novel detailing the hardships and heartbreaks of a tough, witty, and resolute 11-year-old girl from North Carolina found its way into the hearts of readers all over the country. Ellen Foster was the story of its namesake, who had suffered years of tough luck and cruelty until finding her way into the home of a kind foster mother. Now, some nineteen years later, author Kaye Gibbons is finally bestowing the ultimate gift on her fans -- a continuation of Ellen's story.

As The Life All Around Me By Ellen Foster begins, Ellen is now fifteen and living in a permanent household with her new adoptive mother. However, Ellen still feels unsettled an incomplete. Due to "the surplus of living" she had "jammed" into the years leading up to this point in her life, Ellen feels as though she is deserving of early admission into Harvard University. However, when this dream does not come to be, she re-embarks on her soul-searching journey, drawing her back to those she left behind in North Carolina.

While it took Gibbons nearly two decades to return to her most-beloved character, she never truly let go of Ellen Foster, even as she was penning bestsellers and critical favorites such as A Cure For Dreams and Charms For the Easy Life. "She is like a fourth child in my house," Gibbons said in an audio interview with Barnes&Noble.com. "Ellen is really like the kid who came to spend the weekend and stayed for twenty years."

Perhaps Gibbons's close association with the little orphan is the result of her own personal connection to the character. She claims that the Ellen Foster books were "emotionally" autobiographical and helped her to come to terms with the most painful experience of her life. When Gibbons was a child, her ailing mother committed suicide -- an event that placed her on the same pathless quest for love and belonging as Ellen. The untimely death of Gibbons's mother provided much of the impetus for her to revisit Ellen in a sequel. "Before I wrote The Life All Around Me," she confides, "I wasn't obsessed by my mother's suicide, but I was angry about it... and it's something that I thought about every few minutes of the day, and I always wondered what my life would have been like had she stayed. She had extremely awful medical problems and had just had open-heart surgery, and back then we didn't know what we know now about the hormonal changes after heart surgery and the depression that's so typical after it. After I wrote The Life All Around Me, I was amazed that I didn't think about it as much as I did, and I found that I'd forgiven her and understood it."

Now that she has set some of her old demons to rest with a novel that Booklist has called "compelling and unique," Gibbons has vowed not to allow another nineteen years to pass before completing the next chapter in Ellen's story. She ensures that Ellen's adventures are just beginning and ultimately intends to tell the tale of her entire life. "I decided to recreate the life of a woman in literature," Gibbons says. "I always liked to have a big job to do... and I thought about how marvelous it would be at the end of my life to have created a free-standing woman; a walking, talking all-but-breathing person on paper." Ambitious as this project may sound, a woman who has faced the challenges that Gibbons has shall surely prove herself to be up to the task.

Good To Know

Some fun facts from our interview with Gibbons:

"I wrote A Virtuous Woman while nursing two babies simultaneously, typing with my arms wrapped around them. I turned in stained pages but never called them to anyone's attention for fear they'd be horrified."

"I got a C on an Ellen Foster paper I rewrote for a daughter's tenth-grade English class."

"Writing serious work one wants to be read and to last isn't like a hobby that can be picked up and put down, it's a lovely obsession and a very demanding joy."

"Getting involved with things that don't matter in life will get in the way of it, as they will with anything, like family and home, that do matter."

"To unwind, I watch movies and do collages with old photographs from flea markets or make jewelry with my daughter, and the best way to clear my mind is to walk around New York, where I write most of the time in a tiny studio apartment with random mice I've named Willard and Ben, though I can't tell any of those guys apart!"

"My writing is powered by Diet Coke, very cold and in a can. If Diet Coke was taken off the market, I'm afraid I'd never write again!"

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    1. Hometown:
      Raleigh, North Carolina, and New York, New York
    1. Date of Birth:
      May 5, 1960
    2. Place of Birth:
      Nash County, North Carolina
    1. Education:
      Attended North Carolina State University and University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, 1978-1983
    2. Website:

Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing all of 4 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted November 2, 2003

    Ms Gibbons, please give us another one.

    This is the last of this author's work so far and I am waiting for more. The storytelling must go on. All of Ms Gibbons books have been delightful. I read them straight through.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 23, 2002

    Another Great Book by Gibbons!

    Although this was not the best book by Gibbons, it is great. I love the short chapters and the unique form of writing. I could read her books for the rest of my life! Highly recommended.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 9, 2014

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    Posted June 1, 2010

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