Wanting to feel accepted and loved is one of the most basic human desires. For some people this seems to come naturally, but for others who have suffered trauma or who were raised by people that did not seem to care about them, it can become a big struggle. To what lengths will a person go to feel loved by someone and at what point are you giving up too much of yourself to feel needed and protected? ‘White Oleander,’ by Janet Fitch, is a novel that provides an equally beautiful and horrifying portrayal of a young woman who is struggling with these issues and ultimately must decide for herself how far she is willing to go to not feel alone.
‘White Oleander’ is truly a story about change. The narrative follows the main character, a child named Astrid, as she is passed from one foster home to another after her mother’s imprisonment. Astrid’s mother is a deeply poetic murderer who despises weakness and struggles to form attachments to others, including with her daughter. Having lived under her mother’s shadow her entire childhood, Astrid must now begin her journey to discover who she ultimately wants to become.
The actual writing style of the novel is beautiful. Fitch has a unique and rhythmical way of stringing words together that often creates the effect of reading poetry. It is clear that the protagonist is very bright and Fitch does a good job of showing the reader how her mind works as well as fleshing out the other characters. The book’s only hitch is that it sometimes felt a bit too descriptive, with long passages dedicated to describing disjointed memories or repeating the same ideas multiple times. But overall, a very well written piece that is sure to be a classic for years to come.
You can read a short excerpt from the novel here.
Title: White Oleander
Author: Janet Fitch
Publisher: Back Bay Books
Publication Date: May 2000