White Oleander
Everywhere hailed as a novel of rare beauty and power, White Oleander tells the unforgettable story of Ingrid, a brilliant poet imprisoned for murder, and her daughter, Astrid, whose odyssey through a series of Los Angeles foster homes--each its own universe, with its own laws, its own dangers, its own hard lessons to be learned--becomes a redeeming and surprising journey of self-discovery.

White Oleander Details

TitleWhite Oleander
Author
LanguageEnglish
ReleaseSep 1st, 2001
PublisherLittle, Brown and Company
ISBN-139780316182546
Rating
GenreFiction, Contemporary, Womens Fiction, Chick Lit

White Oleander Review

  • Faith-Anne
    January 1, 1970
    If nothing else, read this book for the language. White Oleander reads like a poem. It's so beautifully crafted.
  • Janet
    January 1, 1970
    Well, what was I supposed to rate it? I did work awfully hard on W.O.... still like it. Sad to think Oprah's book club is all over, it was quite an experience.
  • Crumb
    January 1, 1970
    This was a masterful yarn about a complex relationship between mother and daughter. It was about the loss of self, the journey of finding oneself, and most importantly - the resilience of the human spirit. This wasn't a tale of any ordinary bond between mother and daughter, this was a story of the severe dysfunction that occurs when a mother, Ingrid, is imprisoned for murder and a daughter, Astrid, is passed around like garbage from one foster home to another. This novel explores the intricacies This was a masterful yarn about a complex relationship between mother and daughter. It was about the loss of self, the journey of finding oneself, and most importantly - the resilience of the human spirit. This wasn't a tale of any ordinary bond between mother and daughter, this was a story of the severe dysfunction that occurs when a mother, Ingrid, is imprisoned for murder and a daughter, Astrid, is passed around like garbage from one foster home to another. This novel explores the intricacies of their relationship. It explores the depth of emotion that Astrid feels toward Ingrid, ranging from obsessive love to all-encompassing hatred.Janet Fitch is not just a storyteller. She is like Calliope, the Greek Muse of epic poetry. Fitch spins letters into gold; every word that she chooses is deliberate and precise. When you read a book by Fitch it is an experience to savor; letting the story wash over your soul in warm, gentle waves. Once complete, you will feel emotionally exhausted, yet wholly renewed. I urge you to experience this book in all of its glory; it is not just a book. It is every child that has been mistreated in a foster home. It is their voice. It is their tears. It is hope.
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  • Christina White
    January 1, 1970
    Dark, depressing, disturbing, and so beautiful! When the author described the August summer heat I felt it, like hot breath on my neck. I fell in love with Ingrid and her beauty and ideas of the world. Then I became Astrid, and I felt how much she loved her and how bad it hurt to also hate her, but hate Ingrid I did! I would walk away from long reading sessions feeling hardened and detached. It's not an easy read, but I find literature that can make me feel so strongly well deserving of praise. Dark, depressing, disturbing, and so beautiful! When the author described the August summer heat I felt it, like hot breath on my neck. I fell in love with Ingrid and her beauty and ideas of the world. Then I became Astrid, and I felt how much she loved her and how bad it hurt to also hate her, but hate Ingrid I did! I would walk away from long reading sessions feeling hardened and detached. It's not an easy read, but I find literature that can make me feel so strongly well deserving of praise. The words were like a sad song. I connected with them so much that they became the theme song of my life for days. "The phoenix must burn to emerge." I love that Astrid found love at the end and I loved seeing how her past formed her into who she was. I too have been burned by a lost childhood, and spent a lot of time while reading this crying for myself. Life makes you or breaks you. I too, am a survivor. This book will rip your heart apart, and then put it back together again stronger than it was before._______________________________________________________________________
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  • Arah-Lynda
    January 1, 1970
    This is Astrid’s story.We meet her first when she is twelve and in Ingrid’s (her mother) care.Ingrid is a woman of such rare, unearthly beauty as to be most likely found in dreams.Fitch describes her through Astrid’s eyes, gradually, poetically, using very sparse language, as the story unfolds, with words that sing, the pages glistening with the image reflected from her eyes.The Santa Anas blew in hot from the desert, shrivelling the last of the spring grass into whiskers of pale straw. Only the This is Astrid’s story.We meet her first when she is twelve and in Ingrid’s (her mother) care.Ingrid is a woman of such rare, unearthly beauty as to be most likely found in dreams.Fitch describes her through Astrid’s eyes, gradually, poetically, using very sparse language, as the story unfolds, with words that sing, the pages glistening with the image reflected from her eyes.The Santa Anas blew in hot from the desert, shrivelling the last of the spring grass into whiskers of pale straw. Only the oleanders thrived, their delicate poisonous blossoms, their dagger green leaves. We could not sleep in the hot dry nights, my mother and I. I woke up at midnight to find her bed empty. I climbed to the roof and easily spotted her blonde hair like a white flame in the light of the three-quarter moon. I sat next to her, and we stared out at the city that hummed and glittered like a computer chip deep in some unknowable machine, holding its secret like a poker hand. The edge of her white kimono flapped open in the wind and I could see her breast, low and full. Her beauty was like the edge of a very sharp knife. Ingrid also covets beauty in all its many forms.Beauty was my mother’s law, her religion. You could do anything you wanted as long as you were beautiful, as long as you did things beautifully. If you weren’t, you just didn’t exist. She had drummed it into my head since I was small. She becomes so wrapped up in her own world, her own needs that Astrid’s no longer filter through.We swam in the hot aquamarine of the pool, late at night, in the clatter of palms and the twinkle of the new-scoured sky. My mother floated on her back, humming to herself. “God, I love this." She splashed gently with her fingers, letting her body drift in a slow circle. "Isn't it funny. I am enjoying my hatred so much more than I ever enjoyed love. Love is tempermental. Tiring. It makes demands. Love uses you. Changes its mind.” Her eyes were closed. Beads of water decorated her face, and her hair spread out from her head like jellyfish tendrils. “But hatred, now. That's something you can use. Sculpt. Wield. It's hard or soft, however you need it. Love humiliates you, but hatred cradles you. It's so soothing." When Ingrid is imprisoned Astrid is fostered out to a series of homes in Los Angeles, her mother, an ever present part of the baggage that she carries with her. This is such a beautifully written story. So simple, the words arranged to please the ear, one after the other, melodic in their cadence and rhythm. But Astrid’s is not a pretty story.I gave her to the quiet boy with short cropped hair and straggly beard, followed the fat boy back into the bushes behind the bathrooms. He unbuckled his pants, pushed them down over his hips. I knelt on a bed of pine needles, like a supplicant, like a sinner. Not like a lover. He leaned against the white stucco wall of the bathroom as I prayed with him in my mouth, his hands in my hair.It is too real, too raw, to conform to anyone’s preconceived notion of beauty. And yet Fitch makes it sing, with her beautiful, simple words.I left walking backwards so I wouldn’t miss a moment of her. I hated the idea of going back to Marvel’s, so I walked around the block, feeling Olivia's arms around me, my nose full of perfume and the smell of her skin, my head swirling with what I had seen and heard in the house, so much like ours, and yet not at all. And I realised as I walked through the neighborhood how each house could contain a completely different reality. In a single block, there could be fifty separate worlds. Nobody ever really knew what was going on just next door.As I read this I became overwhelmed with the number of passages that I wanted to secrete away, to take out, and read again. Perhaps that explained the worn and tattered condition of the book I held within my hands, pages yellowing, stained and dog-eared or soiled in some other way by the fingers of less careful readers. Truly (I have done it several times now) I can let this fall open to any page and find one of these passages.That was the thing about words, they were clear and specific-chair, eye, stone- but when you talked about feelings, words were too stiff, they were this and not that, they couldn't include all the meanings. In defining, they always left something out.Don’t miss a word……..read this one for yourselves.
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  • Maxwell
    January 1, 1970
    I have many thoughts that I'm having trouble putting into words. Before reading the final chapter of the book, I had to put it down, lean my head back against the couch and think about the experience I've had while reading this book. Astrid's journey, her development from girl to woman, is remarkably crafted. Fitch's writing paints the arid desert and mountain brush in such fine detail. Atmospherically, this story was superb. I was totally immersed in the story, in the physical spaces that Astri I have many thoughts that I'm having trouble putting into words. Before reading the final chapter of the book, I had to put it down, lean my head back against the couch and think about the experience I've had while reading this book. Astrid's journey, her development from girl to woman, is remarkably crafted. Fitch's writing paints the arid desert and mountain brush in such fine detail. Atmospherically, this story was superb. I was totally immersed in the story, in the physical spaces that Astrid inhabits through her 390 page life. My only qualm was that I wish there had been a bit more explanation from her mother's perspective. But that final interaction in the prison, wow. Just wow. It took my breath away. If you're struggling to get into this book for the first one or two hundred pages, just keep going. It's completely worth it.
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  • Matt
    January 1, 1970
    this is a horrifying book, not necessarily for the story's content (which IS horrifying), but for it's plot, execution, characterization, and particularly its overcooked writing. some observations: 1) astrid. the novel's protagonist, a fourteen year old girl, is a thoroughly contradictory character. some people have written that astrid is not your 'average' teenage girl and that she is 'gifted.' if she were such a girl, i would expect much more of her. i'm not a psychologist nor have i ever been this is a horrifying book, not necessarily for the story's content (which IS horrifying), but for it's plot, execution, characterization, and particularly its overcooked writing. some observations: 1) astrid. the novel's protagonist, a fourteen year old girl, is a thoroughly contradictory character. some people have written that astrid is not your 'average' teenage girl and that she is 'gifted.' if she were such a girl, i would expect much more of her. i'm not a psychologist nor have i ever been shot, but i suspect any fourteen year old girl who's mother was sent to prison for murder, who offered herself sexually to a man three times her age, is shot by her first foster mother, performs oral sex on a boy in exchange for 1/2 bag of marijuana would be SEVERLY emotionally disturbed and troubled. astrid, however, seems to care less that she was nearly murdered. instead she focuses on and longs for her sexual encounters with ray. remember, this is a FOURTEEN year old girl. astrid blows her credibility as a narrator very early on because no one who's gone through her experiences would be in as good as shape as she is. it also discredits her as a character, and with a discredited character, the novel doesn't stand a chance. think about a fourteen year old girl you know. now imagine her beaten, shot, mother in prison for murder, sexually loose, and yearning for a lover three times her age. it simply wouldn't happen. 2) the plot: i have trouble with any novel where the plot is advanced by a series of tragedies or dire circumstances. more often than not, it's a gimmick (or crutch) inexperienced writers rely on when realistic ideas for authentic plots run thin. read joan didion or toni morrison (or steinbeck) and how see how they use tragedy--it's real, honest, and most importanly believable. most of the 'white oleander's' is simply too unrealistic. 3) the prose: borderline comical. i'm awe-struck to read how many people have praised fitch's prose. fitch's use of similie is so overdone and forced that it slows the narrative down to a snail's pace. similes should be used judiciously and flow naturally. fitch, on the other hand, find it's necessary to inject as many as four or five similies in just about every paragraph, and most of them just ring false. the 'white' metaphor is also an unfortunate victim. count the number of times fitch uses 'white' to describe astrid, ingrid, clothes, food, dishes, the sky. she beats the 'white' metaphor and never lets the reader decipher it for themselves. the majority of the book is over-described; the sex scenes, in particular, are dreadful. i don't want to read how a fourteen year old remembers every graphic detail of performing oral sex on a middle-aged man. it's too much. a 14 year old girl who's performed oral sex on a man is not going to long for it again. i can tell you that. furthermore: at one point astrid sees a shiny convertible, compares it to a man, and imagines herself climaxing while laying on its hood; during her encounter with ray, she describes the act as riding a horse through the surf. good grief.4) the characters and uniformly cliched and poorly drawn. astrid's mother is the self-absorbed, feminist poet. her first foster mother is a bible-thumping floozy; her stepmother's boyfriend is the object of astrid's desires, even though he's more then three times her age; the second stepmother is demanding and her husband is quiet and reserved; and of course we have the 'hooker with a heart of gold' who takes astrid under her wing. in fact, the professional prostitute is the only emotionally stable and 'nice' character in the entire 150 pages that i read. i'm sure that as most of the teenage girls grow up and mature, they'll see 'white oleander' for what is is: an immature novel masquerading as high literature. and i sincerely hope that no more young women identify with astrid in any way. that's the real tragedy.
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  • Joe Valdez
    January 1, 1970
    After reading her scorching short story in Los Angeles Noir, I smoked a cigarette (I don't smoke), napped and reached for a novel by Janet Fitch. Round 2 is White Oleander, which Oprah's Book Club made a sweepstakes winner at the time of its publication in 1999 and for good reason. This is fiction at its most intoxicating, with boozy prose but also beautifully woven narrative, without a single lull in story or a character who fails to make a mark. Its vision and breadth reminded me of W. Somerse After reading her scorching short story in Los Angeles Noir, I smoked a cigarette (I don't smoke), napped and reached for a novel by Janet Fitch. Round 2 is White Oleander, which Oprah's Book Club made a sweepstakes winner at the time of its publication in 1999 and for good reason. This is fiction at its most intoxicating, with boozy prose but also beautifully woven narrative, without a single lull in story or a character who fails to make a mark. Its vision and breadth reminded me of W. Somerset Maugham's Of Human Bondage, with a teenage girl in Los Angeles surviving a succession of mentors that mold her into an adult.The novel is narrated by Astrid Magnussen, who introduces herself at the age of 12 living in a crummy Hollywood apartment with her mother Ingrid. Employed as a layout designer for a movie magazine when she's not hustling books of her poems, Ingrid is devoted to aesthetics. She's trucked Astrid from Paris to Amsterdam to Mexico and takes her to work as well, certain that her daughter's needs can be met in the audience of her mother. At her poetry reading, Ingrid is approached by Barry Kolker, a chubby, dark and slovenly dressed man who Ingrid rejects on sight, but whose self-confidence and persistence gradually wins her over.Having never known her father, Astrid is encouraged that Barry might make them a family, as well as provide stability in her life. Outside of drawing, life revolves around her mother. This takes a turn for the worse when Barry breaks off contact with Ingrid, crushing her self-esteem and drawing Viking retribution. The police come for her and Astrid spends the next year in a fugue state, watching her zombie-eyed mother sentenced to thirty-five years to life. She's ultimately placed with her first foster family, adopted by a born-again stripper named Starr who lives in Tujunga with her four children in a trailer. On visiting day, a van transports Astrid to Chino to sit with her mother.I looked into her determined face, cheekbones like razors, her eyes making me believe. "I was afraid you'd be mad at me."She stretched me out at arm's length to look at me, her hands gripping my shoulders. "Why would you think that?"Because I couldn't lie well enough. But I couldn't say it.She hugged me again. Those arms around me made me want to stay there forever. I'd rob a bank and get convicted so we could always be together. I wanted to curl up in her lap, I wanted to disappear into her body, I wanted to be one of her eyelashes, or a blood vessel in her thigh, a mole on her neck."Is it terrible here? Do they hurt you?""Not as much as I hurt them," she said, and I knew she was smiling, though all I could see was the denim of her sleeve and her arm, still lightly tanned. I had to pull away a little to see her. Yes, she was smiling, her half-smile, the little comma-shaped curve at the corner of her mouth. I touched her mouth. She kissed my fingers."They assigned me to office work. I told them I'd rather clean toilets than type their bureaucratic vomit. Oh, they don't much care for me. I'm on grounds crew. I sweep, pull weeds, though of course only inside the wire. I'm considered a poor security risk. Imagine. I won't tutor their illiterates, teach writing classes, or otherwise feed the machine. I will not serve." She stuck her nose in my hair, she was smelling me. "Your hair smells of bread, Clover and nutmeg. I want to remember you just like this, in that sadly hopeful pink dress, and those bridesmaid, promise-of-prom-night pumps. Your foster mother's, no doubt. Pink being the ultimate cliché."Left to survive on her own, Astrid accepts some of the messages she hears at the Truth Assembly of Christ and grows close to Starr's carpenter boyfriend, a Vietnam veteran named Ray. Starr grows suspicious of her adopted daughter but Astrid convinces her that not only is an affair preposterous, but sending her back would only push Ray away. Astrid soon consummates a relationship with him anyway and to cope with her doubts, Starr returns to booze. When it comes time for her to move on, Astrid has to be taken away in an ambulance. Recovering from her wounds, she's adopted by Marvel Turlock. Next stop: Van Nuys.Marvel enlists Astrid as a servant but provides a kind of stability she's never known. Now fourteen, Astrid becomes fascinated by a debonair neighbor named Olivia Johnstone who Marvel has disparaged as a "whore." Earning Olivia's trust, Astrid learns that she was a loan officer who parlayed her beauty and charm to profit handsomely from a number of suitors. The friendship continues to mold and harden the girl and results in her being sent back. Considered a problem child, Astrid is placed with Amelia Ramos, an interior decorator who uses the adoption assistance checks for four girls to renovate her Hollywood home, starving her charges with only one meal per day.Astrid endears herself to a new case worker, a screenwriter gathering material, to find placement with her dream foster mother, a childless young actress named Claire Richards. Astrid even gets along with her new foster father, who travels often producing a paranormal TV series. Astrid learns her role here is to watch over Claire, clinically depressed and possibly suicidal from lack of love from her husband. She does her best but with a year left of high school, is on the move again, this time to a hovel in Sunland, where her new foster mother Rena Gruschenka strips Astrid of her pride but replaces it with something more valuable. Rena turned her head to the side, shaded her eyes with her hand, glanced at me, then went back to sunny-side up. "You are Russian I think. A Russian always ask, what is meaning of life." She pulled a long, depressed face. "What is meaning of life, maya liubov? Is our bad weather. Here is California, Astrid darling. You don't ask meaning. Too bad Akhmatova, but we got beach volleyball, sports car, tummy tuck. Don't worry, be happy. Buy something."She smiled to herself, arms down at her sides, eyes closed, glistening on her chaise lounge like bacon frying in a pan. Small beads of water clung to the tiny hairs of her upper lip, pooled between her breasts. Maybe she was the lucky one, I thought, a woman who had divested herself of both future and past. No dreams, no standards, a woman who smoked and drank and slept with men like Sergei, men who were spiritually what came up out of the sewers when it rained. I could learn from her. Rena Gruschenka didn't worry about her teeth, didn't take vitamin C. She ate salt on everything and was always drunk by three. She certainly didn't feel sick because she wasn't going to college and making something of her life. She lay in the sun and gave the workmen hard-ons while she could."You get a boyfriend, you stop worry," she said.I didn't want to tell her I had a boyfriend. Hers.There are novels that seem like they were written just for you. "Compelling female characters? Electric prose? Acidic wit? Fantastic dialogue? You like master-pupil stories, don't you? What about the ultimate L.A. novel? How about detail that's so sharp you draw blood? You'll have it. Read White Oleander." Janet Fitch does all of this in more ways than I have the space to describe, but her characters, particularly the incarcerated Viking mother Ingrid Magnussen (who could skin a Mama Grizzly for brunch) and the fatally weak Claire Richards will be with me for as long as any tragic character in Dickens or Maugham. I mean ...By April, the desert had already sucked spring from the air like blotting paper. The Hollywood Hills rose unnaturally clear, as if we were looking at them through binoculars. The new leaves were wilting in the heat that left us sweating and dispirited in the house with the blinds down.Claire brought out the jewelry she kept in the freezer and dumped it onto the bed, a pirate's treasure, deliciously icy. Freezing strands of green jade beads with jeweled clasps, a pendant of amber enclosing a fossilized fern. I pressed it, cold, to my cheek. I draped an antique crystal bracelet down the part in my hair, let it lap on my forehead like a cool tongue."That was my great-aunt Priscilla's," Claire said. "She wore it to her presentation ball at the Waldorf-Astoria, just before the Great War." She lay on her back in her underwear, her hair dark with sweat, a smoky topaz bracelet across her forehead intersected by an intricate gold chain that came to rest on the tip of her nose. She was painfully thin, with sharp hipbones and ribs stark as a carved wooden Christ. I could see her beauty mark above the line of her panties. "She was a field nurse at Ypres. A very brave woman."Every bracelet, every bead, had a story. I plucked an onyx ring from the pile between us on the bed, rectangular, its black slick surface pierced by a tiny diamond. I slipped it on, but it was tiny, only fit my smallest finger, above the knuckle. "Whose was this?" I held it out so she could see it without moving her head."Great-grandmother Matilde. A quintessential Parisienne."Its owner dead a hundred years, perhaps, but still she made me feel large and ill bred. I imagined jet-black hair, curls, a sharp tongue. Her black eyes would have caught my least awkwardness. She would have disapproved of me, my gawky arms and legs, I would have been too large for her little chairs and tiny gold-rimmed porcelain cups, a moose among antelope. I gave it to Claire, who slipped it right on.The garnet choker, icy around my neck, was a wedding present from her mill-owning Manchester great-grandfather to his wife, Beatrice. The gold jaguar with emerald eyes I balanced on my knee was brought back from Brazil in the twenties by her father's aunt Geraldine Woods, who danced with Isadora Duncan. I was wearing Claire's family album. Maternal grandmothers and paternal great-aunts, women in emerald taffeta, velvet and garnets. Time, place, and personality locked into stone and silver filigree.In comparison to this, my past was smoke, a story my mother once told me and later denied. No onyxes for me, no aquamarines memorializing the lives of my ancestors. I had only their eyes, their hands, the shape of a nose, a nostalgia for snowfall and carved wood.Claire dripped a gold necklace over one closed eye socket, jade beads in the other. She spoke carefully, nothing slid off."They used to bury people like this. Mouths full of jewels and a gold coin over each eye. Fare for the ferryman." She drizzled her coral necklace into the well of her navel, and her pearl double strand, between her breasts. After a minute, she picked up the pearls, opened her mouth and let the strand drop in, closed her lips over the shiny eggs. Her mother had given her the pearls when she married, though she didn't want her to marry a Jew. When Claire told me, she expected me to be horrified, but I'd lived with Marvel Turlock, Amelia Ramos. Prejudice was hardly a surprise. The only thing I wondered was why would she give her pearls.Claire lay still, pretending to be dead. A jeweled corpse in her pink lace lingerie, covered with a fine drizzle of sweat. I wasn't sure I liked this new game. Through the French doors, in the foot of space showing under the blinds, I could see the garden, left wild this spring. Claire didn't garden anymore, no pruning and weeding under her Chinese peaked hat. She didn't stake the flowers, and now they bloomed ragged, the second-year glads tilting to one side, Mexican evening primroses annexing the unmowed lawn.Ron was away again, twice in one month, this time in Andalusia taping a piece about Gypises. Out combing the world for what was most bizarre, racking up frequent flier miles. If he wanted to see something weird and uncanny, he should have just walked into his own bedroom and seen his wife lying on the bed in her pink lace panties and bra, covered in jade and pearls, pretending she was dead.I could keep typing because White Oleander stays at that pitched level of character, black wit and psychological complexity for 446 pages, with the pulse of a mother-daughter relationship underneath and in climax, a memorable confrontation between them. Fitch is dialed in to the human condition, depicting how those we come into intimate contact with will hurt us, inspire us and chisel away at us to expose whoever we were destined to be. It's harrowing, it's real, it's rock 'n roll, it's one of the best novels I've read. In contrast to a lot of the others, this is also storytelling, constantly moving forward, never devolving into Writing while Astrid is on her journey.Length: 138,086 words
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  • Jessica
    January 1, 1970
    There must be a reason why I've been able to recall many of the books I've read over the years, but that it took me until one of my most restless and procrastibatory nights in front of the blank Word doc to dredge this one up from the recesses of memory, even though I read it within the past year or two.I'm pretty sure I know what that reason is, too: it's because on some level I'm embarrassed that I read this book, and that I actually really liked it.I'm pretty sure I know where that embarrassm There must be a reason why I've been able to recall many of the books I've read over the years, but that it took me until one of my most restless and procrastibatory nights in front of the blank Word doc to dredge this one up from the recesses of memory, even though I read it within the past year or two.I'm pretty sure I know what that reason is, too: it's because on some level I'm embarrassed that I read this book, and that I actually really liked it.I'm pretty sure I know where that embarrassment comes from, too: it's rooted in some pretty deep-level misogyny and discomfort about my most womany womanliness, or something like that anyway....This book is the most Oprahiest Book Clubby selection I've ever read in my life. It's also the most estrogened-out, hyper-womany fiction I can even begin to think of. All the criticisms and stereotypes I (and a lot of you) hold about lady lit are present here, by the bundle: poetic, even overwrought language; melodramatic plotting; over-the-top characters; vivid, sensual description; almost fetishistic focus on sex, sexuality, and relationships.... aw, crap, I don't even know what my dreadful vestigial stereotypes about women's fiction are, only I'm 10,000% sure this book fulfilled all of them. It's called WHITE FUKKIN OLEANDER, for PETE'S SAKE!!!Here's where the internalized misogyny comes in, of course, because WHAT THE HELL IS WRONG WITH THAT??? This book was far from perfect, there are some valid and gender-neutral criticisms I have of it, but it was good, and I enjoyed it, and the fact is that I apparently find this somehow embarrassing, and on some level must think I should really be digging on Chuck Palahniuk or Ernest Hemingway or that guy who writes those series books about old-timey sailing ships that middle-aged men love so much.... Like that is way more respectable or something. ARGH!!! Have all these thousands of dollars and book-hours spent on feminist indoctrination been for naught??? I ENJOYED WHITE OLEANDER! Yes, of course it did get a bit too silly for me at times, but on the whole I THOUGHT IT WAS A PRETTY GOOD STORY!Okay, it was melodramatic, but that's part of what made it good. It's about this blonde shorty with a crazy, really horrid white witch of a psycho blonde poet mother, who is scorned by this chumpy-seeming LA cheeseball in a Hawaiian shirt, and hell hath no fury like a psycho poet lady, the mom kills guy, goes to prison, blah blah blah.... So the kid, Astrid -- or maybe Ingrid? -- I forget -- winds up in foster care, and the book is her bouncing around from LA foster home to foster home and experiencing, as my own mother put it, all these different types of moms.Like Push, another book I need to review, there are moments you cannot believe the author was able to type with a straight face. You're like, "NO, come ON, this is RIDICULOUS! You can't POSSIBLY make ANOTHER outlandishly bad thing happen to this poor defenseless character! Pull yourself together Janet, I CAN'T take this seriously." Like at one point the girl gets attacked by a dog, and I actually started laughing. BUT NONE OF IT IS MORE RIDICULOUS THAN JUDE THE OBSCURE, WHICH WAS NOT, LAST TIME I CHECKED, PART OF OPRAH'S BOOK CLUB. LADY WRITERS DO NOT HAVE A MONOPOLY ON THIS KIND OF PATHOS!Anyway, I liked this book. I can't believe I'm so defensive about it! I must really have issues. But does anyone else on here know what I mean? I noticed that NONE of my friends have read this book, which makes me wonder whether there are others among us who have somehow "forgotten," as I had myself, until I sat down tonight to write a paper.BTW, I tried reading part of this years ago, when the author visited my college writing class (she had gone to my school), and I couldn't choke it down that first time. BUT, Ms. Fitch did tell a good story about Oprah calling her personally to say she was in the book club, which I won't repeat here because... I have run out of characters.
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  • Luffy
    January 1, 1970
    I am appalled by the worldview presented in this book. Yet the circumstances surrounding Ingrid, a poetess who goes to prison for murder are so artificial!I don't want to squirm when I'm reading, and I read for pleasure. Is there a market for books like this? Of course there is. And I've got nothing against people who like this book. But should they lap it up like it's licorice?The book is also about foster homes and what can go wrong. I just don't think that the author should be so fake in her I am appalled by the worldview presented in this book. Yet the circumstances surrounding Ingrid, a poetess who goes to prison for murder are so artificial!I don't want to squirm when I'm reading, and I read for pleasure. Is there a market for books like this? Of course there is. And I've got nothing against people who like this book. But should they lap it up like it's licorice?The book is also about foster homes and what can go wrong. I just don't think that the author should be so fake in her plotting in an attempt to fake verisimilitude. I did like it on some level.This book is similar to books by Khaled Hosseini. It's a compliment, but at the same time, a denial.
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  • Vanessa
    January 1, 1970
    What exquisite writing, never have I read a book that speaks so beautifully but also describes pain so acutely. Astrid becomes a ward of the state after her mother commits a crime of passion and is imprisoned. Although her mother is behind bars, Astrid cannot shake her mother's deep hold on her. Her mother, beautiful Nordic Ingrid Magnussen. A true seductress a woman who can weave a web of destruction with her beauty, poetry and words, people fall in love with her, men in particular, she is dang What exquisite writing, never have I read a book that speaks so beautifully but also describes pain so acutely. Astrid becomes a ward of the state after her mother commits a crime of passion and is imprisoned. Although her mother is behind bars, Astrid cannot shake her mother's deep hold on her. Her mother, beautiful Nordic Ingrid Magnussen. A true seductress a woman who can weave a web of destruction with her beauty, poetry and words, people fall in love with her, men in particular, she is dangerous and nobody knows this better than Astrid. This book delves into that most treacherous of relationships the mother/daughter dynamic. A relationship that is deeply destructive and insidious. Along the way Astrid meets many "mothers" foster mothers who have their own lessons to teach Astrid, although she goes through some horrific foster placements, she really tries to belong but always finds that her mother keeps a firm grasp on her and is able to manipulate her and those around her even though she is in jail and can't physically reach her, it's the mental scars and trauma that keep affecting Astrid and making it hard to move on however hard she tries to. A book that really exposes the complexities of women, how they shape and influence us, in good and bad ways. I loved this book but it was heavy going at times, it's a book I needed to take breaks from as if could become all consuming and depressing. The theme of this book touched a nerve so it affected me personally which is why I rated this 5 stars
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  • Elizabeth
    January 1, 1970
    White Oleander follows the story of Astrid, a young girl who is shuttled from one foster home to another while her mother serves a life sentence in prison.I'm reading this for the second time, and it remains one of my favourite books ever. It is as beautiful and dreamy as it is bleak and raw. The Los Angeles setting is gorgeous, blissful, and yet terribly unforgiving. I was so totally immersed in this story from start to finish, and I would think about it longingly when I was off doing other thi White Oleander follows the story of Astrid, a young girl who is shuttled from one foster home to another while her mother serves a life sentence in prison.I'm reading this for the second time, and it remains one of my favourite books ever. It is as beautiful and dreamy as it is bleak and raw. The Los Angeles setting is gorgeous, blissful, and yet terribly unforgiving. I was so totally immersed in this story from start to finish, and I would think about it longingly when I was off doing other things - which is what I love most about reading; it's such a wonderful feeling when you can't wait to dive back into the world between the pages. The characters in this novel are ones you won't forget; terribly flawed, and yet I remained sympathetic towards all of them. Janet Fitch has a talent for writing in a way which allows you to thoroughly comprehend what each character is going through, regardless of how different your own life may be.I highly, highly recommend this novel, especially for those who love character driven stories, or if you're looking for something different. White Oleander is truly remarkable.
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  • Helene Jeppesen
    January 1, 1970
    Wow, this is a BEAUTIFUL MASTERPIECE and an intelligent and heartbreaking, true and honest story. When I was about 100 pages into the book, I already knew that this was going to be a new favourite of mine. Now that I've finished it, I can honestly say that this is one of the most raw books I've ever read. What strikes me the most about this story is the impeccable writing style. The main character, Astrid, tells the story in a very impressionistic way and it was beautiful! Janet Fitch has a way Wow, this is a BEAUTIFUL MASTERPIECE and an intelligent and heartbreaking, true and honest story. When I was about 100 pages into the book, I already knew that this was going to be a new favourite of mine. Now that I've finished it, I can honestly say that this is one of the most raw books I've ever read. What strikes me the most about this story is the impeccable writing style. The main character, Astrid, tells the story in a very impressionistic way and it was beautiful! Janet Fitch has a way of comparing life to ordinary things and creating metaphors that are spot on, and it was so easy to follow Astrid's train of thoughts and feel for her through her struggles. The impeccable writing style was then paired to a beautiful and - as I said - raw story about doubt, loneliness, love, insecurity and so many other things. Name a feeling and this book has it. I still can't believe how Janet Fitch manages to convey Astrid's feelings and doubt so beautifully; even though I've never been in Astrid's situation, I completely understood the feelings she was going through. I loved every page of this book! It broke my heart, and it has left a great impact on me. That's eaxctly why it made it straight to my favourites list :) This is a must-read!
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  • Debbie
    January 1, 1970
    This is some of the most beautiful writing I've ever encountered. It reminds me a little bit of Women Who Run With the Wolves: Myths and Stories of the Wild Woman Archetype. It's language is deep and satisfying. The mother daughter relationship told in an almost mythical way. Loved it!
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  • Michael
    January 1, 1970
    Gritted my teeth to get through this and see what happened. The story itself is interesting, but the writing was so fussy and melodramatically overwrought that I wanted to toss the book away. Kept going only because I wanted to understand people's strong response to it.
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  • Athira (Reading on a Rainy Day)
    January 1, 1970
    I had heard previously how good/bad this book is. Most people have been powerfully affected by it. They either really liked it or really disliked it. After reading it, I could see how it could sway you in either ways. You could either take the story at face value and be swayed by it, as I did, or you could critically analyze it and call upon its credibility.My opinionJanet Fitch writes White Oleander in a very eloquent style. Poetic writing is not some thing I enjoy usually (since I'm pathetic i I had heard previously how good/bad this book is. Most people have been powerfully affected by it. They either really liked it or really disliked it. After reading it, I could see how it could sway you in either ways. You could either take the story at face value and be swayed by it, as I did, or you could critically analyze it and call upon its credibility.My opinionJanet Fitch writes White Oleander in a very eloquent style. Poetic writing is not some thing I enjoy usually (since I'm pathetic in poetry). But I didn't have to strain myself here. The writing flowed easily, in fact, I couldn't wait to turn page after page to know what happens next.White Oleander is told from Astrid's perspective. She sketches a very vivid portrait of her mother, Ingrid - someone who scorns on anyone "beneath" her, someone who is highly appreciative of beauty and condemning of who/what doesn't possess it, someone who believes she has to be in control and jealously frowns on anyone Astrid gets attached to.Beauty was my mother's law, her religion. You could do anything you wanted, as long as you were beautiful, as long as you did things beautifully. If you weren't, you just didn't exist. She had drummed it into my head since I was small. Although I had noticed by now that reality didn't always conform to my mother's ideas.Astrid's mother, Ingrid, did not give herself to men. Men came to her, but she frowned on them. Until Barry Kolker came along and proved to be her weakness. When Barry leaves her for another woman, Ingrid's methodical jealousy has her murdering him by poison. Ingrid's sentence to jail starts a six-year transformation in Astrid from the girl who worships her mother to someone who tries to stay away from her.Astrid's years in foster care are almost gut-wrenching to read about. That a 12-year old girl goes through so much makes it an even more poignant reading. Astrid happens to be very mature for her age. Her initial confusion over what her mother did soon gives way to an acceptance of what she will have to go through. All her foster parents have shades of gray. Every house she stays in, she learns something formidable about human life in general. She slowly comes to learn how to manipulate human wants and desires. In so many instances, I could see quite a bit of her mother, in herself.White Oleander is very powerfully written. It describes a very harrowing picture of the foster care in LA, where Astrid grew up. A foster parent who suspects her of sleeping in with her boyfriend, another one who suspects her of being lesbian and having a relationship with the prostitute next door, yet another who encourages pot and alcohol in the house. What was saddening was Astrid's belief that she deserved it. Which child deserves any of this? Sometimes I wanted to shake the people around her for being blind to her - A 13-year-old aware of the manipulative power of sex, the lifting effect of drugs and being attracted to old or married men.However dire these situations, White Oleander also strongly advocates that human companionship can be found in the least expected places. In the geeky studious child who is very knowledgeable about nature, in a woman who sleeps with men for money, in the childless mother, who adores Astrid but who is highly suspicious about her husband's fidelity, in the pregnant foster-child who looks to Astrid for support during her pregnancy. These little tales of love moved me just as much as the harsh tales did. What made the sorrows more unbearable is that the good events didn't last. Much as Astrid was being doomed to a life of hardships, she learned from these situations to get the upper-hand.I did get bugged initially by the fact that hardships follow Astrid. I would not have liked White Oleander if Astrid never grew to love and feel loved. The one foster-home that gives her that moves me more than the shady foster-homes she has been in. I loved Astrid's coming of age in this book, and how she adapted to different situations, but I liked Ingrid's character-sketch more. Janet Fitch has painted a sharp picture of Astrid's mom, with all her staunchly held beliefs and her conviction that Astrid could only "belong" to her. It was a portrait that one would hate instantly and yet be enamored by its sharp colors and strong inward pulls.I would strongly recommend White Oleander to you. It is very hard to do justice to this book, and no matter how much I tried, I couldn't quite get it right. So I'll just say, go ahead and read it!Title DemystifiedDid you know that white oleanders are poisonous? My knowledge of botany is at the very bottom, so this particular fact was quite new to me. White Oleander is all about the poisons in the human spirit. There is the frequent mention of "sin virus", when someone yearns for something wrong - sex, drugs, or anything that is frowned upon. There is the reference to Ingrid's poisonous tentacles that sweetly lures everyone and then jumps in for the kill. White Oleander is a strong tale of how the many poisons in a person can overcome the good feelings and undermine a relationship.Cover Art DemystifiedI was initially captivated by the cover of this book, way before reading its synopsis. The beautiful woman slowly unzipping herself, gives me the image of human temptations and manipulations. Human poisons, in other words, that much laces and interleaves the whole story of Astrid and Ingrid.
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  • Megan
    January 1, 1970
    My aunt bought me this book for Christmas one year and at first I was really disappointed. I thought "Oh, that's nice... because I like to read you just got me the Oprah book club book of the month... thanks." But then I read it, and I'm now convinced that my aunt knows me better than maybe many of my close friends or better than I know myself. Not to be all cheesy and over-identify with something that isn't about me; but this book REALLY hit home for me in describing my relationship with my mot My aunt bought me this book for Christmas one year and at first I was really disappointed. I thought "Oh, that's nice... because I like to read you just got me the Oprah book club book of the month... thanks." But then I read it, and I'm now convinced that my aunt knows me better than maybe many of my close friends or better than I know myself. Not to be all cheesy and over-identify with something that isn't about me; but this book REALLY hit home for me in describing my relationship with my mother. This story is emotionally harrowing and beautifully told. The climax is gut-wrenching though subtle, and honestly made me cry. The movie didn't come close to doing any of this justice. This is one of those books that even if you had great parents, you can probably identify with, just because of how excellently the characters and story are rendered, and it's hard to believe that this author didn't live through anything like this herself. She makes a special point of noting in the preface (or back cover or something) that her and her mother get along great and are very close; to me that just makes this book more amazing because, well, damn. That's some powerful and realistic fiction.
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  • Rebecca
    January 1, 1970
    Man, that Oprah knows how to pick ’em! This was a terrific read; I’m not sure why I’d never gotten to it before. I read huge chunks during my travel to the States and then slowed down quite a bit, which was a shame because it meant I felt less connected to Astrid’s later struggles in the foster care system. It’s an atmospheric novel full of oppressive Los Angeles heat and a classic noir flavor that shades into gritty realism as it goes on, taking us from when Astrid is 12 to when she’s a young w Man, that Oprah knows how to pick ’em! This was a terrific read; I’m not sure why I’d never gotten to it before. I read huge chunks during my travel to the States and then slowed down quite a bit, which was a shame because it meant I felt less connected to Astrid’s later struggles in the foster care system. It’s an atmospheric novel full of oppressive Los Angeles heat and a classic noir flavor that shades into gritty realism as it goes on, taking us from when Astrid is 12 to when she’s a young woman out in the world on her own.Astrid’s mother Ingrid, an elitist poet, becomes obsessed with a lover who spurned her and goes to jail for his murder. Bouncing between foster homes and children’s institutions, Astrid is plunged into a world of sex, drugs, violence and short-lived piety. “Like a limpet I attached to anything, anyone who showed me the least attention,” she writes. Her role models change over the years, but always in the background is the icy influence of her mother, through letters and visits. Fitch’s writing is sumptuous, as in a house “the color of a tropical lagoon on a postcard thirty years out of date, a Gauguin syphilitic nightmare.” I might have liked a tiny bit more of Ingrid in the book, but I can still recommend this one wholeheartedly as summer reading.Favorite lines:The knock-out opening two lines: “The Santa Anas blew in hot from the desert, shriveling the last of the spring grass into whiskers of pale straw. Only the oleanders thrived, their delicate poisonous blossoms, their dagger green leaves.”“I couldn’t imagine my mother in prison. She didn’t smoke or chew on toothpicks. She didn’t say ‘bitch’ or ‘fuck.’ She spoke four languages, quoted T. S. Eliot and Dylan Thomas, drank Lapsang souchong out of a porcelain cup. She had never been inside a McDonald’s. She had lived in Paris and Amsterdam. Freiburg and Martinique. How could she be in prison?”“My scars were my face, my past was my life.”“It was my legacy, wasn’t it, to shed lives like snakeskin, a new truth for each new page, a moral amnesiac?”
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  • Lisa Vegan
    January 1, 1970
    It took me forever to sit down and write this review. I never wait this long after finishing a book to post some sort of review. I’ve just given up and realized it’s impossible for me to do justice to the book. It’s a full 5 star rating from me, though not (yet?) on my favorites shelf, maybe because the ending seemed a bit truncated/rushed to me; I wanted to know a bit more.This one wrecked me, it wiped me out, it was gut wrenching. I loved it. It’s my kind of book. Thanks to GR friend Caroline It took me forever to sit down and write this review. I never wait this long after finishing a book to post some sort of review. I’ve just given up and realized it’s impossible for me to do justice to the book. It’s a full 5 star rating from me, though not (yet?) on my favorites shelf, maybe because the ending seemed a bit truncated/rushed to me; I wanted to know a bit more.This one wrecked me, it wiped me out, it was gut wrenching. I loved it. It’s my kind of book. Thanks to GR friend Caroline for periodically recommending that I read it. I’m glad that it’s finally off my too long to-read shelf and I’m glad I read it now, even though I had to temporarily put aside a few books I have commitments to read soon, some too soon to accomplish in time. It’s the second book I’ve read in 2017 that has helped me get out of my readers’ slump. I hope the next books I read are anywhere as close to engaging. It was a page-turner for me. The only parts I sometimes found dull were Ingrid’s letters to Astrid, but because of why I thought that was also smart writing. The writing is gorgeous. I mostly appreciate the many complicated, realistic, interesting, and memorable characters, especially Astrid. Some of the circumstances seemed almost extreme (though still believable) but nothing about the characters rang false to me.I loved reading how Astrid adapted to her many different circumstances. I think she’s a brilliantly drawn character. I worried needlessly that I wouldn’t be as interested in her as she ages, 12 to almost 18 and then beyond a bit to an unknown age but I think not much older, but it actually got harder and harder to put down the book the farther in I read. Each move turned into a whole other world. I rooted for and worried about Astrid all the way through.The book is deeply melancholy. I found myself getting more and more depressed as Astrid goes through some of her placements. The main character has a highly unconventional upbringing even until age 12 and then experiences chaos and disruption from ages 12-18. Every placement I found interesting, only one would I consider more than barely tolerable. I was impressed and saddened by how she adapted to each place/group of people. I appreciated how she could often be so tender and generous with some of the other people she lived with in almost all her foster homes. Even for a foster child, some of the placements were notable for being unusual.This is a great Los Angeles story. I have a San Francisco shelf and a NYC shelf. If I had a Los Angeles shelf, this book would go on it. I loved taking a tour through L.A. and the surrounding areas, including the rural areas. At the end of my edition there is an interview with the author (with a link to the full interview which I’ve yet to read) and a list of discussion questions. This would be a great book club book because there is a lot to think about and discuss.Highly recommended for readers who like beautifully crafted novels, those interested in foster children, those who enjoy atypical coming of age stories, readers who like reading about dysfunctional families and family relationships, those who appreciate how art can be healing, and people who are familiar with L.A. and southern California.Two of the quotes that I loved:“The pearls weren't really white, they were a warm oyster beige, with little knots in between so if they broke, you only lost one. I wished my life could be like that, knotted up so that even if something broke, the whole thing wouldn't come apart.”“How vast was a human being's capacity for suffering. The only thing you could do was stand in awe of it. It wasn't a question of survival at all. It was the fullness of it, how much could you hold, how much could you care.”
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  • Skye Skye
    January 1, 1970
    Exquisite, provocative, melodious novel spun by author Janet Fitch, artistic with the English language. White Oleander is an epoch/pastoral poem in the guise of a novel, a Romantic's dream, a Metaphysical masterpiece and yet underneath the beauty of language lies a gritty, edgy story of pain, lost hope, longing, desire and need; it is a journey of redemption often meeting with despair, broken glass and scars; it is a voyage of self-discovery and quintessential decisions that leave the reader uns Exquisite, provocative, melodious novel spun by author Janet Fitch, artistic with the English language. White Oleander is an epoch/pastoral poem in the guise of a novel, a Romantic's dream, a Metaphysical masterpiece and yet underneath the beauty of language lies a gritty, edgy story of pain, lost hope, longing, desire and need; it is a journey of redemption often meeting with despair, broken glass and scars; it is a voyage of self-discovery and quintessential decisions that leave the reader unsettled and filled with hope as well as fear.It is hauntingly amazing like a beautiful sunset and manipulates the reader's conscience while penetrating and seducing all five senses.
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  • Britany
    January 1, 1970
    White Oleander packs a powerful punch to your emotional psyche. Almost as soon as I started this book, I was swept away by the writing. Astrid Magnussan- just a beautiful wisp of a newly minted teenager watches as her mom spirals downward and loses control, ending up in prison. Astrid finds herself in Foster care and the story takes us on the path that soon defines Astrid's life. Home after home, fancy prostitues, starvation, to suicidal thoughts. This book does not shy away from the dark and gr White Oleander packs a powerful punch to your emotional psyche. Almost as soon as I started this book, I was swept away by the writing. Astrid Magnussan- just a beautiful wisp of a newly minted teenager watches as her mom spirals downward and loses control, ending up in prison. Astrid finds herself in Foster care and the story takes us on the path that soon defines Astrid's life. Home after home, fancy prostitues, starvation, to suicidal thoughts. This book does not shy away from the dark and gritty places. I was horrified yet found myself wanting more. I wanted to rescue Astrid from the delves of the barrel, and mostly from the poetic grasp of her mother. The writing was powerful-- I don't have the words to express how lyrical the writing was considering the dark subject matter. I found myself searching for hope and rooting for Astrid more than anything else, I just wanted her to be "Ok" by the end of the book. For me, the book was a little too lengthy in prose and may have made a bigger impact if some of the bulk was edited down a bit.
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  • Niya
    January 1, 1970
    This is my all time favorite book. I love the character Astrid, and enjoyed seeing her played by Alison Lohman in the movie. I wish there were more books like this one.
  • Ananda
    January 1, 1970
    I can't forget her story. It's like a precise etching tatooed on the center of my brain. Her pain is my pain, her fears are my fears, her life...becomes mine. I take every word from her illustrated existance, using it as my own bible to crawl through this enraged wilderness where the grass is made of needles, the trees are crawling with serpants, and the water is too tanged to drink.... I taste the saltiness of her tears as they stream down her face, burning, leaving behind scars of inevitable I can't forget her story. It's like a precise etching tatooed on the center of my brain. Her pain is my pain, her fears are my fears, her life...becomes mine. I take every word from her illustrated existance, using it as my own bible to crawl through this enraged wilderness where the grass is made of needles, the trees are crawling with serpants, and the water is too tanged to drink.... I taste the saltiness of her tears as they stream down her face, burning, leaving behind scars of inevitable pain. I feel every emotion that blisters her soul. I look deep into her eyes and see the rips in her heart. I touch the engravements on her thoughts. Astrid...I'll never forget your story. I first read this book when I was seventeen for an advanced writing course and it touched some part of me so deeply that I wrote this passage in my journal about it. Since then I've read this book countless times. The story never gets old and the writing is always refreshing. Simply put: The most beautiful piece of fiction I've ever read. Janet Fitch has a truly authentic writing style that incorporates soft hues of poetry into the story. This book will remain on my shelf FOREVER!!!
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  • Cat
    January 1, 1970
    Due in part, perhaps, to the influx of "unfortunate teenage girl" novels in the mid-to-late nineties (I think here of books like _She's Come Undone_ and _The Virgin Suicides_), I avoided Fitch's book for a while (the Oprah's Book Club stigma also contributed). And while the story line did manage to keep me up and at it until 2 am last night, I must say: I'm unconvinced. Also, spoilers. I don't review books to keep them a secret from people who haven't read them; I review them to share my opinion Due in part, perhaps, to the influx of "unfortunate teenage girl" novels in the mid-to-late nineties (I think here of books like _She's Come Undone_ and _The Virgin Suicides_), I avoided Fitch's book for a while (the Oprah's Book Club stigma also contributed). And while the story line did manage to keep me up and at it until 2 am last night, I must say: I'm unconvinced. Also, spoilers. I don't review books to keep them a secret from people who haven't read them; I review them to share my opinions with people who have. The heroine is a supposedly precocious 12?-year-old girl whose mother, jilted, murders her old lover using some pretty romantic and home-remedy style poisons. Astrid, the daughter, worships her mother based (as we find out later in a kind of tangental and almost unnecessary addition to the denouement) on some major abandonment issues. Her mother, Ingrid, a "poet", is wildly self-absorbed and disregards her daughter except when convenient. Fitch's job at the beginning was to show us Ingrid through Astrid's eyes, and while she does a decent job of alluding to some of the disillusionment that begins to blossom when we hit pre-adolescence, she never lays a real foundation for understanding or feeling of Astrid's desperate, almost hysterical attachment to her mother -- Astrid worships her mother's physicality (enormously sensual), her appreciation of aesthetics (somewhat Cali and cliche) and her poetry (just bad, actually). After the murder, trial and subsequent imprisonment, Astrid is carted off to -- wait for it -- foster care! As the reader of any late 20th century novel knows well, this bodes the beginning of the "real" story. Because foster parents are all just terrible, messed-up people, either in it for the money or to fulfill some other need. Astrid trails destruction and debris through three or four various foster homes, developing complicated and doomed relationships along the way that only serve to reaffirm her abandonment complex. The only sympathetic person of color in the whole story -- a high-priced call girl named Olivia Johnstone who lives an impossibly rich life laced with jazz, jewelery and jet-setting -- establishes one of Astrid's oft-returned-to realities: "It's a man's world". And yet, Fitch riddles the female characters with so many intensely tragic flaws that halfway through the book one can't help but wonder if she's implying that women are too fucked up to make it a woman's world themselves. Each of the female role-models Astrid finds is almost a caricature of some fatal flaw: gluttony, hypocrisy, despair, lust, while the men remain either sensitive and helpless, or are acquitted of their manly appetites simply because they serve as a backdrop to the relationship between Astrid and the female...but if it's a man's world, and women act the way they do because of men, then why is it okay for the men remain unexamined?Astrid learns the ropes, as the reader might expect, and in the end bargains with her mother to exchange her tweaked testimony (and potentially her mother's freedom) for tidbits about the past. By this time, so much has happened and Astrid has made so many streetwise decisions that it's difficult to see how the plumbing of the depths of her past (especially the whole thing about Annie...like, who cares? Whether Ingrid was there or not, Astrid was emotionally abandoned the whole time) will really resolve any of her conflict. The final result is simply that Astrid should probably see a therapist or five. Final Pet Peeve: what's all this about California being a palpable presence in the novel? I won't deny that it was, but I've grown more and more conscious of the fact that there are two separate Californias and I have a hard time with LA authors who behave as though the only California is the California south of San Francisco. It just seems very short-sighted to me.
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  • Kelly
    January 1, 1970
    I only wish there were a star less than one. I wish I could remove stars. I wish there were a star deficit rating.This book almost made me give up reading all together. It is definitely the last book I trusted from Oprah. I still think she owes me money and those days of my life back. It was page after page of the most depressing writing I've ever read with absolutely no pay off.
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  • Chloe
    January 1, 1970
    I am normally exceedingly wary of anything that Oprah puts her mark on and avoid it like the plague. However, after years of being recommended this book by many people who's opinions on such things I respect I finally pulled it off the bookshelf. Let me be the first to tell you: I have never been more appreciative of my friends. This book was phenomenal! Following the trials and tribulations of one Astrid Magnusson, the book takes you first from her idyllic life with her poet/ice queen mother, I I am normally exceedingly wary of anything that Oprah puts her mark on and avoid it like the plague. However, after years of being recommended this book by many people who's opinions on such things I respect I finally pulled it off the bookshelf. Let me be the first to tell you: I have never been more appreciative of my friends. This book was phenomenal! Following the trials and tribulations of one Astrid Magnusson, the book takes you first from her idyllic life with her poet/ice queen mother, Ingrid, to the various foster hells she is plunged into once her mother is imprisoned for the murder of a former lover. Finch writes astonishingly well and makes sure that the reader feels every hunger pang, every slap in the face, every demeaning detail right in the core of their being. I went into this book expecting a quick and melodramatic read. I came out deeply moved and with tears streaking my cheeks, not so much from the writing but from the thought that all of the hells that Astrid is subjected to in house after house are actually being experienced by children in foster care every day. Astrid's struggle highlights the existence that a vast amount of this nation's children live, and that is the most horrifying thing of all.
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  • S.R. Grey
    January 1, 1970
    Edit--re-read March 2013One of the best books I've ever read...still. In fact... The writing is very descriptive, lyrical and poetic. The metaphors (and there are a lot) are spot on-perfect. I highlighted s-o-o-o many passages, and they hit me every time I re-read them. The story itself is dark and often depressing in the examination of a young girl's relationship with her disturbed mother, and her subsequent journey through the foster care system. And though her mother is cruel, I swear she has Edit--re-read March 2013One of the best books I've ever read...still. In fact... The writing is very descriptive, lyrical and poetic. The metaphors (and there are a lot) are spot on-perfect. I highlighted s-o-o-o many passages, and they hit me every time I re-read them. The story itself is dark and often depressing in the examination of a young girl's relationship with her disturbed mother, and her subsequent journey through the foster care system. And though her mother is cruel, I swear she has some of the best lines (dialogue and in her letters)in the novel. White Oleander is not fluffy and light, it's not an easy read, but it's well worth checking out when you're in the mood for an emotional journey that is told beautifully.
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  • Madeline
    January 1, 1970
    Janet Fitch has an amazing gift for writing novels centered around protagonists that are flawed and scarred, while at the same time making her audience identify with and even love these characters because of their imperfections. Take Astrid, the main character of White Oleander. At the beginning of the story, Astrid's mother goes to jail for poisoning an ex-boyfriend and Astrid is placed in a series of foster homes. During the course of the story, Astrid sleeps with her foster father (at age thi Janet Fitch has an amazing gift for writing novels centered around protagonists that are flawed and scarred, while at the same time making her audience identify with and even love these characters because of their imperfections. Take Astrid, the main character of White Oleander. At the beginning of the story, Astrid's mother goes to jail for poisoning an ex-boyfriend and Astrid is placed in a series of foster homes. During the course of the story, Astrid sleeps with her foster father (at age thirteen, no less), befriends a prostitute, begs for money in the street, sleeps with a theif, and gives a boy a blowjob in exchange for a bag of pot. But at the same time, Fitch presents Astrid as a sensitive, intelligent, and artistically gifted young girl who's just trying to survive - and life sure likes to screw this girl over. Almost every foster home she's placed in is filled with danger and people who should never be allowed to care for anyone, ever. But Astrid survives, and her story is heartbreaking, disturbing, and ultimately beautiful.
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  • Rebecca McNutt
    January 1, 1970
    Gripping from the beginning to the end, White Oleander is destined to become a classic and there are definitely none like it out there. :)
  • Aoibhínn
    January 1, 1970
    White Oleander is a very unique and amazing piece of literature. The novel is beautifully written with a passionate and enthralling plot and incredibly vivid descriptions which make it easy for the reader to visualise every person and place Astrid encounters. I was overwhelmed and deeply touched by Janet Fitch's wonderful prose, the intensity of her descriptions, and the incredible insight into each of her characters. I adored the protagonist, Astrid. I cried with her, sobbed with her and laughe White Oleander is a very unique and amazing piece of literature. The novel is beautifully written with a passionate and enthralling plot and incredibly vivid descriptions which make it easy for the reader to visualise every person and place Astrid encounters. I was overwhelmed and deeply touched by Janet Fitch's wonderful prose, the intensity of her descriptions, and the incredible insight into each of her characters. I adored the protagonist, Astrid. I cried with her, sobbed with her and laughed with her. This girl's story is one of survival, despite the odds being heavily stacked against her. There is something quite magical within it's pages and it reads almost like a dream.I am giving this book a well deserved five stars!
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