Lit with Alyssa

Anderson reviews Janet Fitch’s “White Oleander”

More stories from Alyssa Anderson

Getting Weird
December 13, 2018
Lit with Alyssa

Are you looking for a breezy book to unwind with before finals? Do you want a fun read to take your mind off the chaos around you?

If so, I’m sorry, but this is not the book for you. On the other hand, if you’re in need of a wild, crazy ride, I have exactly what you’re looking for.

Janet Fitch’s 2001 novel “White Oleander” is one of the most disturbing, beautiful and insanely frustrating novels I have ever laid my eyes on. Finishing this book was a long and often outrageous ride, but it is definitely a ride worth taking.

This one-of-a-kind novel chronicles the rocky relationship between Astrid and her insane, beautiful and borderline evil mother, Ingrid, an egocentric author with a taste for drama.

The tale of Ingrid and Astrid begins when Ingrid decides to poison her ex-boyfriend, ultimately resulting in his death. It doesn’t take long for police to break down their door, landing Ingrid in maximum security prison and damning young Astrid to a life of foster care.

Thus begins the emotional rollercoaster that is this novel.

Astrid’s journey into the world of foster care is, as you can probably guess, not an easy one. Astrid is passed from house to house, enduring all sorts of trauma at each stop all the while reading delusional letters from her convict mother.

As she travels down the line of foster families, Astrid meets some eclectic characters. Some are good, some are downright awful, but each family teaches her a different life lesson.

In order to keep this book a mystery, I’m going to stop there. I wouldn’t want to spoil the journey for you. Long story short, the foster care system is, to put it lightly, extremely messed up.

This novel is hard to read, but is impossible to put down at the same time. I am confident this is one book I will never forget.

I generally devour most books at the speed of light, but somehow this book took me nearly a month and a half to read. This was not due to my lack of interest, but more so to the fact that I needed to take breaks from its disturbing content.

Although my journey throughout the pages of this novel was long, stressful and often upsetting, it was definitely a journey worth taking.

A review on Goodreads said, “If you have no other reason to read this book, read it for the language.”

I couldn’t agree more. This novel is beautifully written; every sentence was equally captivating, making it impossible for me to break away.

“White Oleander” is a stunning examination of female sexuality, the tumultuous relationship between mothers and daughters and what it means to be alive.

This novel won’t be an easy read, nor will it be fun, but it’s more than worth it.