Patricia Foster's lyrical yet often painful memoir explores the life of a white middle-class girl who grew up in rural south Alabama in the 1950s and 1960s, a time and place that did not tolerate deviation from traditional gender roles. Her mother raised Foster and her sister as "honorary boys," girls with the ambition of men but the temperament of women. An unhappy, intelligent woman who kept a heartbreaking secret from everyone close to her, Foster's mother was driven by a repressed rage that fed her obsession for middle-class respectability. By the time Foster reached age fifteen, her efforts to reconcile the contradictory expectations that she be at once ambitious and restrained had left her nervous and needy inside even while she tried to cultivate the appearance of the model student, sister, and daughter. It was only a psychological and physical breakdown that helped her to realize that she couldn't save her driven, complicated mother and must struggle instead for both understanding and autonomy.
"All the Lost Girls dramatizes the subtle influences of family and culture, and especially of southern culture, on a young woman's psyche. At the same time, the book carries on the southern literary tradition of creating a strong, direct voice that isn't afraid to see the humor of a situation, to artistically sketch a lush landscape, and to depict fascinating rural characters."—Mary Swander, author of Out of This World: A Woman's Life Among the Amish
"The trouble with southern daughters and mothers is that there is precious little confession going on. Ours is a terrain of secrets and deceptions. I love the way Patricia Foster just wades into that dark and murky love-hate that keeps mothers and daughters forever mysterious to each other."—Nanci Kincaid, author of Crossing Blood