I would not be surprised if I picked up my wrinkled copy of White Oleander and tried to find my latest bookmarked page to continue reading. I have spent so many months reading this book that I'm still in disbelief that I finally finished.
I chose this book because I heard such great things about the story (from Oprah, no less) and remembered seeing trailers for the movie. It is an unusual mother-daughter story. The mom, Ingrid, is a dangerously passionate poet sentenced to life-in-prison after murdering her ex-boyfriend. This act leaves her young daughter, Astrid, doomed to float from foster home to foster home, enduring incredible hardships and losses along the way. As the book blurb states, it "becomes a redeeming and surprising journey of self-discovery."
What I Liked: Janet Fitch's writing is breathtaking. There were certain sentences that I literally read a few times over because they were so ingeniously crafted. The book may be almost 500 pages, but Fitch tirelessly churns out beautiful prose throughout the work. Additionally, Ingrid and Astrid are fascinating characters. Ingrid is completely faithful to her twisted beliefs, even when they land her in jail. Astrid demonstrates a malleability when she conforms to the environment of her latest foster home while retaining a certain spark, no matter how dim.
What I Didn't Like: The plot is rather monotonous. After the third foster home, I get the idea: each home transforms Astrid and allows her to meet new people. It probably took me so long to read because I felt able to put down the book after each foster home episode finished. It is also very dark. From murder to suicide to abuse, this book is intriguing but not exactly uplifting.
Should you read it? Maybe. It is not a light read, as far as both the length and content. If you want a thought-provoking novel about familial ties and growing up, then maybe this one is for you. I haven't seen the movie, but if you want to get the story in 2 hours instead of over 2 months, you might just want to find the film on NetFlix.