Ellen In Pieces was one of several CanLit books I was reading around the same time which featured flowers on the cover. I particularly loved the “smashed” look of this cover and thought it matched the spirit of the story.
In the book, we get to know Ellen McGinty, a middle-aged divorced single mom. Left by her husband for a younger woman, Ellen manages to start her own publicity firm, raise her daughters and sleep with a lot of men. The results are usually quite messy, but this is the typical rollercoaster ride that is Ellen’s life. She still loves her jerk of an ex-husband and her grown daughters want her to stop interfering in their lives, so Ellen tries to find fulfillment through various other means: a hiking trip in France, buying herself a pottery studio, an affair with a much younger man and adopting a stray dog. Ellen is gritty and tenacious, and nothing can keep her down, but for how long?
Although I didn’t love her character, following Ellen’s misadventures was like observing a bull in a china shop: equally horrifying and entertaining at the same time. It drove me crazy that she still loved her cheating, neglectful ex-husband and admired him, defended him even though he didn’t deserve any of her respect. Ellen makes one impulsive decision after the next and often puts her foot in her mouth, but ultimately all she wanted was to love her family and friends. I could respect her character for that alone.
Quite a few times in the novel, the point of view shifts from Ellen to other characters, such as her youngest daughter or her lover. Sometimes the digression is brief, sometimes for chapters. I appreciate that the author wanted to provide alternative perspectives of Ellen, but I found the digressions distracting and often pointless.
Caroline Adderson confessed that with Ellen In Pieces she tried to write a novel where the chapters could possibly be standalone short stories, and this may explain the fragmented feel of the book in certain sections. Overall, I believe the author successfully presents a deeply flawed woman who had so much love in her heart and was loved by others despite the mistakes she had made.