I could not put this book down! "White Oleander" was wonderful from the very first sentence to the very last and I have Oprah to thank for bringing author Janet Fitch to my attention. The story is narrated by Astrid - a teenage girl - who suffers through years of living in the foster care system while her mother Ingrid serves a life sentence for murdering her ex-lover. (I can just envision a younger Angelina Jolie-type playing the role of Astrid in the film version.) Each family that Astrid lives with has its own unique (yet sometimes cliched) cast of characters that are instrumental in shaping and transforming the young woman she becomes. This is a novel of self discovery the hard way. I personally cannot imagine the loneliness and terror that Astrid experienced while bouncing from home to home to home. Ingrid stays present in Astrid's unstable life through letters and occasional visits and their strained relationship is key to Astrid's development. The character are so real, the writing style is beautiful, the plot moves swiftly and the story weaves the reader through every human emotion possible. While I'm not a fan of the Oprah Winfrey show, I am a fan of her book club and this novel ranks up there as one of her best picks
Yes, White Oleander is an Oprah Book Club selection, but I ended up enjoying it nonetheless. Astrid, an unusual name which seems to fit the character for some reason, is tight with her artistic, eccentric mother, Ingrid. Unfortunately, Ingrid murders her boyfriend and Astrid ends up in the foster care system of Los Angeles.
From home to home to home, Astrid is shuffled. Each situation ends up disastrous, and Astrid is affected. Each home is unique from the others, and an interesting cast of characters enter and leave the life of the protagonist.
I believe I got a better idea of what being a foster child, tossed about in "the system", would be like. Of course, the real experience would probably be even more difficult, but White Oleander gives the reader an idea. A bittersweet read and highly recommended.
This is a unique growing up tale of a young woman. It is almost impossible to put down and is full of surprises, from the bizarre to the hilarious. Foster home tales will never be the same. I highly recommend this novel.
This was a fantastic read. Tragically beautiful descriptions and realistic relationships. Astrid's journey through the different foster homes and her struggle to fit in with each is something we can all relate to in some way. The struggles Astrid goes through with her mother are equally captivating. Anyone who enjoyed The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath will find something to love in this book.
I found White Oleander to be a chilling yet well written tale of a rather disturbing mother-daughter relationship. I found the determination of the daughter despite the callousness of the mother enlightening. I also appreciated the other characters that were built around the daughter such as some of the adults in here life that served as foster parents.
Simply, a great book. Filled with unforgettable characters and tragedies. The story follows Astrid, a young girl of 12, through a variety of good and bad foster homes after her mother goes to prison for murder. A fascinating view of the influence of parents and how one discovers one's own inner strength.
This book is not for the faint of heart. It follows a girl a series of foster homes and what she goes through. (I won't give more detail so as not ruin the book for others)
This is an Oprah's Book Club Book, and while it tears at your heart it is a good read.
There were a few moments in the book where it gets very wordy and can be slightly boring, it only last for a page or two though. I read through it in 3 nights, where most books only take me one evening.
The character building is out of this world in this novel. I found myself attached to each character and longed to learn more about each of them. Fitch is incredibly adept at making everyone you meet memorable.
The ending was a bit disappointing I must admit, as I felt it stopped short and seemed rushed.
A peek into a world that is mostly unknown to the average person. An artisticly inclined women and her daughter of like quality, are ripped apart after her mother's fatal decision. A story filled with unimaginably sad twists and one youth's fight to survive.
This is one of those books I pick up once a year and read through. I love getting lost into this odd artistic world. This strong woman and her daughter caught in her shadow. It speaks to me on so many levels of curiosity. I never tire of it.
It's an amazing book. Written so poetically and beautifully, it's one that will keep you reading until the very end! How she deals with all of the different homes, situations, and styles of life are completely amazing and how she develops into the person she is (Some in a bad way). I've never seen the movie, but this is one of the best books i've ever read!
I missed the movie and just now found time to read the book. Now I know why it stayed so long on the best seller list - it is painfully awesome. Do mothers like Ingrid really exist? Are the foster systems in the US really that terrible...the case workers that unfeeling? I pray no is the answer....
This was an "okay" book; not my favorite, but was still a good read. I just think it's unrealistic to think that the mom's story would be referenced in college classes and she would be "worshipped" by girls for what she did.
This book still stays my favorite book for many reasons. Not only does Janet Fitch create a story that brings the reader on a journey through Astrid's eyes but she does it in such a way that makes the reader feel closely connected with Astrid. The language and wording of the book is rich and varying. Unlike any other book I've read. Vocabulary beyond anything I'd seen. This book actually made me reach for the dictionary once or twice. White Oleander is one book I will come back and reread over and over again simply because there is so much to get out of it.
This book is a work of art. Each word is like dripping honey and I couldn't get enough. The best part, however, is the evolution of Astrid's feelings toward her jailed mother, and the changing nature of their relationship. Seeing through the eyes of abandoned, passed-around Astrid is all at once heart-breaking and transformative. Her skewed view of the world, as drilled into her by her destructive and poisonous mother, is slowly molded, changed, and this makes her a stronger woman, able to see many sides of a situation, and wade through flowery-poetic bullshit she is so used to interpreting. Fantastic read!
Once I began this book I was committed to finishing it without hesitating. It was an irresistible to put down at points wanting to finish, to find some peace hopefully at the end. Once I commit to something, I'm in it to win it...or at least get all the way to the finish line.
This girl's life was in a state of tremendous upheaval, and I was expecting a vastly different ending. Unfortunately, the ending left me a bit unsettled. Overall it was considerably detailed in all it's elements and a must read!
This book was incredible! I had stopped reading books for the past few years and just started back up. This was a great choice! I could not put it down. The author is incredibly detailed and descriptive. The vocabulary is also impressive at points. Definitely recommended!!
Well written. Fitch does an impeccable job portraying the attitude of both the main character and her daughter as they journey through life. One in prison, one struggling to find herself while wandering through the social service system.
I loved this book. When I heard there was going to be a movie I was so excited but the movie fell flat for me. It lacked so much. If you haven't read the book but have seen the movie, I highly recommend you giving the book a shot. You won't be disappointed!
Having picked this up at a book sale and full well knowing even before I started reading it that it was an Oprah Book club book, I have to admit I was pleasantly surprised by this novel. Although sometimes overly dramatic, the overall plot is interesting enough to keep you reading and thinking about it even when you have to put the book down. If you would like to read something that is not necessarily the "average" fiction novel, you should try this one.
Oprah's Book Club. The unforgettable story of a brilliant poet imprisoned for murder and her daughter whose odyssey through a series of foster homes becomes a redeeming and surprising journey of self-discovery. A stunning debut novel.
This book is about a young girl who is going through alot of stuff. Her mother is a very opinionated woman who, thinks everything should be her way. This story goes through the life of the young girl and tells how she bounces from home to home and trying to be accepted at them. If you like dark reads, this is for you. It is good, but a dark story.
I don't read a lot of fiction, and to be honest this one caught my eye because I had seen the movie and found the story so unusual I wanted to know more. The book does not disappoint. The movie was of course less detailed, more emphasis on the worst parts, and with more attractive characters. The book was a good read. I liked it, didn't love it, but was glad I read it. I'm probably not the best judge of fiction works, because for every book I actually complete, there are at least 12 that I picked up to read and lost interest before getting very far. I finished this one because it was weird and different, a completely different set of characters than any I've ever met in my life. In real life, I have met people who were abandoned, neglected, or put in foster care when they were younger, and nearly every one turned out to be very grounded, decent and kind people despite the nasty way they were treated as children (I've never met any of their parents). I sort of knew the ending from the movie, it was good to see more detail in the book.
a well written tale of a girl, Aatrid- making her way into womanhood- through a series of failed foster parents and a mother that's as much conniving as alluring. it gives you crisp details into a wide spectrum of characters in many different situations- and the outcomes.
Incredible book about relationship between a mother and a daughter. Astrid was thrust into the foster care system after her mother goes to prison for murdering an ex-boyfriend. Her mother was a poet and lived an avante guard life style, keeping her daughter hauntingly thirsting for her mother during the years of living with an assortment of foster care families in L.A. Although she was in prison, she could still control her daughters life with her words. As Astrid grows through puberty into a young woman she becomes self reliant and independent. After her foster mother committs suicide because of something her mother said, Astrid turns from her mother and sees her as she really is, self serving and controlling. She becomes more self reliant and is able to break the spell of her mother over her.
A very provocative book, I didn't want it to end!
Fitch flawlessly captures the different stages of adolescence as Astrid, with the help of an array of uniquely influential women, winds her way toward self-discovery. She adapts to her new environments and learns from them, but the aspiring artist always manages to retain pieces of herself, no matter how difficult. "White Oleander" is one of those rare books that can truly be understood at any age. Your mother doesn't have to have been an ingenious sociopath for you to relate to the deep bond that Astrid still feels toward Ingrid, even after coming to terms with her selfishness, instability, and lack of compassion...Much better than the movie, but the book usually is.
This is th eunforgettable story of Ingrid, a brilliant poet imprisoned for murder, and her daughter, Astrid, whose odyssey through a series of 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.
Although this book started out with a bit of a yawn, taking me about the first two chapters before it gained interest, I am certainly delighted I did not put it down!!
I was captured. The story delves into areas your mind does not want to go, but it is taken. Like watching a wreck (you do not want to see it, but cannot look away). Janet Fitch grabs you in such an artistic, poetic way, that you are intrigued, disgusted, and with a peel-your-skin-back kind of way. Yet, you know there is too much of a reality mixed in this novel, as well.
This should be a suggested read to all mature readers!!
This was another choice for book club and one that I did not enjoy that much. I found this book to be really dark and depressing and it left me feeling emotionally drained. I felt even worse after I watched the movie. While it is well written, it was not a book that I will read again.
This novel follows Astrid's journey through a series of foster homes while her mother is imprisoned. Each foster home is unique and disturbing in a different way. We experience the physical and emotional changes that Astrid endures. The language of Janet Fitch's writing is beautiful and intriguing. An incredible read, much better than the movie.
It was an Oprah book club choice, and it received good reviews from plenty of people, so your mileage may vary from mine :-)
I wasn't a fan of this book....thought this book was depressing and overwritten--with high drama and not a break for the reader, with the calamities befalling the young protagonist. Not to say this isn't what life is like if your mother is a narcissistic psychotic of some kind.....
It does expose a very dysfunctional mother-daughter relationship and what amounts to serious abuse of a child; adult children of bipolar or otherwise mentally ill but functional parents might find some true chords here. It just didn't work for me at the time I read it.
Oprah can't be wrong..from her book club!This Novel is haunting,engaging...avivid story complete with conniving characters and dramatic twist into a teenage girl's life throu fostercare as she becomes so bitter...
I saw the movie before reading this book. Both movie and book are haunting, engaging. The story of a young girl who struggles with the foster care system, a controlling, unbalanced mother in prison, and life.
I really liked this book! Astrid's foster home experiences were disturbing on so many levels. I couldn't help but be drawn into the story. I found her trials and tribulations believable, her character real. This book read more like a memoir than fiction. It was well-written, poetic. I highly recommend it! I will keep an eye out for more from this author for sure. Much was left out of the movie, understandably. All of the actors played their parts well, but Michelle Pfeiffer as Ingrid was a great choice!
Thirteen-year-old Astrid Magnussen, the sensitive and heart-wrenching narrator of this impressive debut, is burdened with an impossible mother in Ingrid, a beautiful, gifted poet whose scattered life is governed by an enormous ego. When Ingrid goes to prison for murdering her ex-lover, Astrid enters the Los Angeles foster care program and is placed with a series of brilliantly characterized families. Astrid's first home is with Starr, a born-again former druggie, whose boyfriend, middle-aged Ray, encourages Astrid to paint (Astrid's absent father is an artist) and soon becomes her first lover, but who disappears when Starr's jealousy becomes violent. Astrid finds herself next at the mercy of a new, tyrannical foster mom, Marvel Turlock, who grows wrathful at the girl's envy of a sympathetic next-door prostitute's luxurious life. "Never hope to find people who will understand you," Ingrid archly advises as her daughter's Dickensian descent continues in the household of sadistic Amelia Ramos, where Astrid is reduced to pilfering food from garbage cans. Then she's off to the dream home of childless yuppies Claire and Ron Richards, who shower her with gifts, art lessons and the warmth she's been craving. But this new development piques Ingrid's jealousy, and Astrid, now 17 and a high school senior, falls into the clutches of the entrepreneurial Rena Grushenka. Amid Rena's flea-market wares, Astrid learns to fabricate junk art and blossoms as a sculptor. Meanwhile, Ingrid, poet-in-prison, becomes a feminist icon who now has a chance at freedomAif Astrid will agree to testify untruthfully at the trial. Astrid's difficult choice yields unexpected truths about her hidden past, and propels her already epic story forward, with genuinely surprising and wrenching twists. Fitch is a splendid stylist; her prose is graceful and witty; the dialogue, especially Astrid's distinctive utterances and loopy adages, has a seductive pull. This sensitive exploration of the mother-daughter terrain (sure to be compared to Mona Simpson's Anywhere but Here) offers a convincing look at what Adrienne Rich has called "this womanly splitting of self," in a poignant, virtuosic, utterly captivating narrative. Reading group guide; author tour.
This is a very good book, it took me a while to get use to and like Janet Fitch's writing style, but I did get use to it and then found I really liked it... I loved the movie, which I also own, but if you have only seen the movie, you are missing out on a very lot of what happened to Astrid.. I was amazed at what all was left out! I can see how this may not be something everyone would like, but I sure did!
Oh, something weird, my book is made for book clubs, with notes in the back... I've never seen such a thing, wish I was in a book club and could discuse it!!HaHa!!!
This is a great book overall. I wish the main character could have stayed with the young foster parents. I keep wondering what the main character's mom said to the foster-mother that prompted her suicide. The last family the girl was with was practically a brothel in my opinion. I felt sorry for the foster child who went gave birth, and walked out of the hospital like nothing ever happened. Some sad realities.
I worked for years with kids in the "system" (foster kids and kids who'd committed juvenile crimes of varying degrees). This incredible novel rings true from start to finish. Beautifully written. Highly recommended.
Such a terribly sad story. I have to confess that I cry during Kleenex commercials, but being a mom, I always put my oldest daughter in the position of any child when I am reading or watching a movie. I understand what it means to be a little crazy and looking for love but I can't imagine putting my own happiness before that of my children. This book makes me want to become a foster parent. Too bad I can't adopt them all!
Astrid Magnussen, the teenage narrator of Janet Fitch's engrossing first novel, White Oleander, has a mother who is as sharp as a new knife. An uncompromising poet, Ingrid despises weakness and self-pity, telling her daughter that they are descendants of Vikings, savages who fought fiercely to survive. And when one of Ingrid's boyfriends abandons her, she illustrates her point, killing the man with the poison of oleander flowers. This leads to a life sentence in prison, leaving Astrid to teach herself the art of survival in a string of Los Angeles foster homes.
As Astrid bumps from trailer park to tract house to Hollywood bungalow, White Oleander uncoils her existential anxieties. "Who was I, really?" she asks. "I was the sole occupant of my mother's totalitarian state, my own personal history rewritten to fit the story she was telling that day. There were so many missing pieces." Fitch adroitly leads Astrid down a path of sorting out her past and identity. In the process, this girl develops a wire-tight inner strength, gains her mother's white-blonde beauty, and achieves some measure of control over their relationship. Even from prison, Ingrid tries to mold her daughter. Foiling her, Astrid learns about tenderness from one foster mother and how to stand up for herself from another. Like the weather in Los Angeles--the winds of the Santa Anas, the scorching heat--Astrid's teenage life is intense. Fitch's novel deftly displays that, and also makes Astrid's life meaningful.
"This is what you're after when you're browsing the shelves for something good to read. White Oleander is a siren song of a novel, seducing the reader with its story, its language, and, perhaps most of all, with its utterly believable (and remarkably diverse!) characters. The narrator is particularly memorable-there were times she made me want to cheer and weep simultaneously. Finishing this book made me feel gratefully bereft, and I look forward to Janet Fitch's next work."
- Elizabeth Berg author of Durable Goods and Range of Motion
I loved this book! But a friend of mine had seen the movie, and did not care for the story. I watched the movie and can understqand why. The movie was exerpts from the book, word for word, but left out the heart and soul of the book. The copy I have is pre-movie, and as such, does not have the movie picture on the front. Also, it is a little worn, but I would still classify it as "good". No rips, water-damage, or missing pages.
Astrid is the only child of a single mother, Ingrid, a brilliant, obsessed poet who uses her beauty to intimidate and manipulate men. Astrid's world falls apart when her mother murders her lover and is sentenced to life in prison. This is the story of Astrid's journey through a series of foster homes and her efforts to find a place for herself in impossible circumstances.
Astrid is the only child of a single mother, Ingrid. Ingrid is a brilliant poet who wields her luminous beauty to intimidate and manipulate men. Astrid worships her mother and cherishes their private world full of ritual and mystery. Iverything is shattered when Astrid's mother falls apart over a lover. Ingrid murders the man and is sentenced to life in prison.
Astrid is the only child of a single mother, Ingrid, a brilliant, obssessed poet who wields her luminous beauty to intimidate and manipulate men. Astrid worships her mother and cherishes their private world full of ritual and mystery----but their idyll is shattered when Astrids mother falls apart over a lover. Deranged by rejection, Ingrid murders the man, and is sentenced to life in prison.
White Oleoander is the unforgettable stroy of Astrid's journey through a series of foster homes and her efforts to find a place for herself in impossible circumstances. With determination and humor, Astrid confronts the challenges of loneliness and poverty, and strives to learn who a motherless child in an indifferent world can become.