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.
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 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.
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.
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.