Smash's Reviews > White Oleander

White Oleander by Janet Fitch
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Mar 10, 11

bookshelves: book-reviews, fiction, read-2011, social-work, tough-issues, read-own-hardcopy
Read from January 12 to March 04, 2011 — I own a copy

This book was an escape from my usual paranormal smut and urban fantasy adventures, and it is so worth the change in scenery. I had to read the book for my Vulnerable Children class, where I am learning about the child welfare system. It was a poignant tale of one girl’s tumultuous journey through the foster care system and will no doubt leave your jaw hanging on many occasion. As a human being, you will be horrified at the life that Astrid must endure after her mother is sent to prison for murder. And Astrid’s mother, Ingrid, is one of the most complex characters I’ve ever read. You will want to reach through the pages to ring her neck all the while experiencing sadness over her situation.

I was sickened by how Astrid was treated by these foster parents. They destroyed her innocence. Astrid reached out for love and was constantly slapped in the face, except for a few encounters that introduced this young lady to love and evil, themes that are very interconnected in this story. I was also sickened at the role of the social workers in this book! They treated Astrid like shit and I am horrified at the thought of a real social worker acting this way.

Janet Fitch’s writing is downright magical, poetic and intoxicating. I felt every hunger pang, every yearning for some semblance of normalcy, every embarrassing, depressing and desperate moment, every let down, every heart break, every smile, every relationship that was real and the many that were not. The book is raw and leaves your breathless.

Most of you have probably heard of this movie, which I watched recently, and thoroughly enjoyed. However, with any book, your imagination is always better, and in the case of this book, your heart breaks even more intensely. The ultimate reality of this book is that Astrid’s myriad of foster home experiences is an unfortunate common theme amongst foster children. This book is one story out of thousands that we have not heard. However, If you are up for a change of scenery, and a story that will steadily tug at your heartstrings, all the while filling you with hope that resiliency is real and can save someone, then take a dive into this book, head first.


Notable Quotes

"I wondered why it had to be so poisonous. Oleanders could live through anything, they could stand heat, drought, neglect, and put out thousands of waxy blooms. So what did they need poison for? Couldn't they just be bitter? They weren't like rattlesnakes, they didn't even eat what they killed. The way she boiled it down, distilled it, like her hatred. Maybe it was a poison in the soil, something about L.A., the hatred, the callousness, something we didn't want to think about, that the plant concentrated in its tissues. Maybe it wasn't a source of poison, but just another victim."


"And I tried not to make it worse by asking for things, pulling her down with my thoughts. I had seen girls clamor for new clothes and complain about what their mothers made for dinner. I was always mortified. Didn’t they know they were tying their mothers to the ground? Weren’t chains ashamed of their prisoners?"


"I know what you are learning to endure. There is nothing to be done. Make sure nothing is wasted. Take notes. Remember it all, every insult, every tear. Tattoo it on the inside of your mind. In life, knowledge of poisons is essential. I've told you, nobody becomes an artist unless they have to."


"That was the thing about words, they were clear and specific-chair, eye, stone- but when you talked about feelings, words were too stiff, they were this and not that, they couldn't include all the meanings. In defining, they always left something out."


"And I realized as I walked through the neighborhood how each house could contain a completely different reality. In a single block, there could be fifty separate worlds. Nobody ever really knew what was going on just next door."


"I felt like an undeveloped photograph that he was printing, my image rising to the surface under his gaze."
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Quotes Smash Liked

Janet Fitch
“I know what you are learning to endure. There is nothing to be done. Make sure nothing is wasted. Take notes. Remember it all, every insult, every tear. Tattoo it on the inside of your mind. In life, knowledge of poisons is essential. I've told you, nobody becomes an artist unless they have to.”
Janet Fitch, White Oleander

Janet Fitch
“I felt like an undeveloped photograph that he was printing, my image rising to the surface under his gaze.”
Janet Fitch, White Oleander

Janet Fitch
“But I knew one more thing. That people w ho denied who they were or where they had been were in the greatest danger.”
Janet Fitch, White Oleander

Janet Fitch
“I wondered why it had to be so poisonous. Oleanders could live through anything, they could stand heat, drought, neglect, and put out thousands of waxy blooms. So what did they need poison for? Couldn't they just be bitter? They weren't like rattlesnakes, they didn't even eat what they killed. The way she boiled it down, distilled it, like her hatred. Maybe it was a poison in the soil, something about L.A., the hatred, the callousness, something we didn't want to think about, that the plant concentrated in its tissues. Maybe it wasn't a source of poison, but just another victim.”
Janet Fitch, White Oleander

Janet Fitch
“And I realized as I walked through the neighborhood how each house could contain a completely different reality. In a single block, there could be fifty seperate worlds. Nobody ever really knew what was going on just next door. ”
Janet Fitch, White Oleander


Reading Progress

01/13/2011 page 70
14.0%
01/22/2011 page 200
40.0% "This book is really fantastic, although the content is quite sad. This author's way with words is mesmerizing!"
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Comments (showing 1-2 of 2) (2 new)

dateDown arrow    newest »

message 1: by Jennifer (new) - added it

Jennifer This book has been on my shelf for years waiting to be read. I look forward to your review.


message 2: by Ace (new)

Ace Varkey I am a sucker for stories that reflect the truth around us. Like your review stated, the foster care system can be so very very very sad and brutal.


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