Friday, December 19, 2008

White Oleander

That's right kids - it's book review time yet again. I just finished up with White Oleander by Janet Fitch. And yes, it does happen to be written by the same author as the last book I reviewed, Paint it Black.

I loved this book for many reasons. I'm sure most of you have at least seen the movie by now (which by the way definitely doesn't do the book justice) if not read the book, but for those of you who haven't I will give you the background of the story. Basically it is a story of a young girl named Astrid who is desperately trying to figure out who she is as person as she is tossed around from one foster home to the next after her mother Ingrid is sent to jail for killing her boyfriend. It's a story about mother and daughter and a struggle for self discovery.

Ingrid is very individualistic as well as powerful in her own right. The author, in fact, refers to her as "a monster". It seems as if nothing can get in Ingrid's way until an unlikely character by the name of Barry comes into her life. At first Ingrid is not at all interested, but then she seems to settle on having him around. Astrid watches as her mother starts "to break all of her rules." Eventually Barry leaves Ingrid for someone else. Deep down Ingrid knows that he was never good enough for her in the first place. As many women do, she had settled and then been taken for granted. Unable to understand, she turns to rage and eventually kills Barry by poisoning him with Oleanders. She tells her daughter "Isn't it funny. I'm enjoying my hatred so much more than I ever enjoyed love." This ends up being a quite ironical statement as her hatred also ends up causing her to lose the love of her daughter.

After Ingrid is taken to jail Astrid's trip through foster home begins. Every home is different and each teaches her something about life. Astrid could almost be compared to a chameleon as she tries on each different life to see which one suits her. Among other things she tries on the life as a Christian, as a lover of an older man, as someone who knew how to "figure out what men want and how to give it to them. And how not to. And when to do which.", as a person who knew how to work the system and look out for herself, as someone who knew how to be loved, and how to ask "what's in it for me?". She was shot, malled by dogs, starved, and constantly losing people.

It is a memorable journey and was a very easy read. Towards the end it did tend to drag a bit, but overall it kept me entertained. The only thing that bothers me about this book is that in the end it seemed that Astrid still wasn't confident in who she was and what she wanted. I would have liked a little bit more closure after such a long journey. Maybe the authors point is that you never really stop finding out who you are - each event in life brings on a new discovery to who you are.

Other commentary is welcome - let me know what you thought of this book if you have read it!


  1. Hmm, I think I should try reading the book - sounds very interesting:)

  2. I didn't know that there was a book but I did love the movie. I will definitely keep an I out for this book.

  3. Haven't read it or seen it so I skipped this post. But wanted to say hey nonetheless.

  4. Hi,

    Wishing you in advance "A Merry X'Mas and A Happy New Year''

  5. hey laura, would you please email me @

    i need to send you something (an invitaion) - i'll be waiting!


  6. I love that book! I did watch the movie and I agree that the book is much better. I loved Ingrid's character - so deep and rich.


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