BlurbWhite Oleander is a 1999 novel by American author Janet Fitch. It is a coming-of-age story about a child who is separated from her mother and placed in a series of foster homes. The book was a selection by Oprah's Book Club in May 1999 and became a 2002 film.
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Really deep and emotional
The writing itself is a pleasure in this book - it is lyrical, flowing, and sometimes it drifts close to poetry. I think it's interesting that Astrid is an artist, recording her life through sketches, when the book itself does such a good job of creating constant and beautiful word portraits, both of the beautiful and the ugly in Astrid's life. The story itself is equally good. Oddly (because I dislike them) I would describe this book as a monster story. Astrid's struggle to maintain a normal life is constantly and viciously interrupted by her mother's ruthless pursuit of her own narcissistic plans for her Astrid. The author does a marvelous job of portraying both characters, and though I cannot feel sorry for Ingrid, I am able to see her point of view - the point of view of a monster. It is Astrid, though, that is the main focus, and she is tremendously done - a work of art in and of herself, her story is awful but the way she faces life makes her beautiful. She is treated with callousness and brutality, and though it bends her, it never breaks her. And in every situation, she pulls the beauty she sees out, recording it, immortalizing it. This is not a story with an end, rather it is a story about Astrid's journey through her own life, and there is a certain pleasure in not waiting for any particular event, but just following her through that journey. And the open-endedness of the final pages is a part of what makes this book so rereadable - what Astrid's ultimate fate is, we do not know - but there are a million possibilities and one is left with the belief that whatever it is, Astrid will overcome what is bad, and truly appreciate what is good.