REVIEW – White Oleander by Janet Fitch

“I had seen girls clamor for new clothes and complain about what their mothers made for dinner. I was always mortified. Didn’t they know they were tying their mothers to the ground? Weren’t chains ashamed of their prisoners?”

I picked this book up from the library not knowing a thing about it (just knowing that a lot of people list it as one of their favorites). This book is HEAVY. It wasn’t at all what I expected, but it was good. It’s hard to say it was enjoyable because poor Astrid never catches a break or really experiences any love or joy.

“How it was that the earth could open up under you and swallow you whole, close above you as if you never were.”

Oh, Astrid. A practically invisible child thrust into the foster system after her mother poisons an ex-lover. She makes misguided, childish mistakes (understandably) and ends up with a string of foster mothers and other figures who each provide their own wisdom, but are also terribly lost in their own ways.

“I hated labels anyway. People didn’t fit into slots – prostitute, housewife, saint – like sorting the mail.”

There are so many complex women throughout this book. Some are explored more than others, but the examination of different women, their thoughts, their struggles, their weaknesses, is likely what makes this book so memorable for so many readers.

“Loneliness is the human condition, get used to it.”

Ingrid is arguably the most complex character in the book and also the worst. I think we’re supposed to believe that she loves her daughter but everything she does and says is to the contrary. She’s frustrating and heartless and pretentious. There isn’t a “villain” in this story but she’s as close as it gets.

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