The next book in my year-long Oprah Book Club Challenge is White Oleander, 1999, 390 pages. Published in hardback by Little Brown and Co., paperback in 2000 by Back Bay Books.
This is an intriguing first novel by Janet Fitch. Narrated by 13-year-old Astrid Magnussen, it’s the story of a young girl faced with heart-wrenching circumstances beyond her control. The mother-daughter theme is prevalent throughout.
Astrid lives with her mother, a poet with astounding beauty and considerable skills and fame. Astrid’s mother, Ingrid, uses her beauty to manipulate men. Her emotional problems ensure that Astrid’s life will never be safe and secure, and her huge ego ensures that Ingrid will never be a true success as a poet.
When the mother, Ingrid, becomes obsessed with a boyfriend that proves difficult to manipulate, she finds herself separated from her daughter. Astrid is left in the apartment, alone and terrified. When it becomes obvious that her mother will not be returning, Astrid enters the world of institutions and foster homes.
Throughout Astrid’s teenage years, her disturbed, manipulative mother wields her considerable power over her daughter in absentia.
This is a story of survival, of finding oneself in the worst of circumstances, in understanding who and what you have become, and eventually, in triumphing over what life has offered.
It’s a nice read. Out of five stars, I give White Oleander…..
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