The unforgettable story of a young woman's odyssey through a series of Los Angeles foster homes on her journey to redemption.
Astrid is the only child of a single mother, Ingrid, a brilliant, obsessed 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 Astrid's mother falls apart over a lover. Deranged by rejection, Ingrid murders the man, and is sentenced to life in prison. White Oleander is the unforgettable story of Astrid's journey through a series of foster homes and her efforts to find a place for herself in impossible circumstances. Each home is its own universe, with a new set of laws and lessons to be learned. 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. Oprah Winfrey enjoyed this gripping first novel so much that she not only made it her book club pick, she asked if she could narrate the audio release.
APPLE BOOKS REVIEW
Much like adolescence itself, this acclaimed coming-of-age novel is equal parts beautiful and harrowing. Twelve-year-old Astrid is deeply close to her mother, Ingrid, a celebrated poet. But Ingrid’s passions run deep—so deep that she poisons her cheating boyfriend, landing her in prison and throwing Astrid into foster care. That’s just the beginning of Astrid’s frightening adolescent odyssey as she leapfrogs from one abusive, unstable home to another, all the while trying to come to terms with her increasingly complicated feelings for her mother. We were blown away by author Janet Fitch’s brilliant psychological insight as she charts Astrid’s dysfunctional attempts to grow from girl to woman amid a seemingly endless parade of women who hurt her, forget her, or let her down. White Oleander was adapted into a big movie starring Michelle Pfeiffer and Renée Zellweger, but there’s no replacement for reading this unforgettable novel.
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 freedom--if 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. FYI: An excerpt from the novel was selected as a notable story in Best American Short Stories 1994.
Interesting perspective of the complex relationship between mother and daughter.
One of my all times favorites
I have read this book three times over the years and I’ve watched the movie many times. If you haven’t read this, do it now! I have a paper copy with all my favorite parts underlined.. this book touches my soul. Will read again, I’m sure.
I thought this sounded like an interesting book- something different. I read the sample and thought it’d be good...boy I was wrong. I couldn’t get more than 1/5 of the way through before stopping. Reading about a 14 year old girl and a 50 year old man together- no thanks! It could take a different turn, sure, but I refuse to read through that to see. Waste of my money.