I came across White Oleander by Janet Fitch on a friend’s reading wish list. It’s the story of a young girl named Astrid who is left to navigate the California foster care system as her mother, Ingrid, is locked up in prison for murder. It’s a coming of age tale, which makes it a little typical, but I think the writing is beautiful and makes it unique. There’s an audio version narrated by Oprah Winfrey that I think really adds to the experience of the novel.
In addition to the poetic diction of the novel, I really appreciated the depth of the characters. If you enjoy watching characters grow up throughout the story, I think you’ll really appreciate White Oleander. Astrid is so innocent when we first meet here, and we watch her grow up. By the end of the novel, you understand why she became who she did. As an outsider looking in, I sympathized with her, even when wholeheartedly disagreed. As a young woman, she was dealt bad cards and she is desperately trying to hold her life together.
And then you get to know her mother… Ingrid is extremely narcissistic but also a brilliant whose prose is beautifully incorporated throughout the novel. Fitch richly brings us into the mind of someone who is truly evil, possibly the deepest illustration of such a personality that I have ever read in a fiction novel.
I gave it three and a half stars because while the plot was a little lackluster, the prose was absolutely beautiful. If you liked The Girls, I would suggest giving this one a try.
This book was also made into a movie, which I have yet to watch: