Give me books, fruit, french wine and fine weather and a little music out of doors. --John Keats

Thursday, January 29, 2015

"White Oleander" by Janet Fitch

I don't know why I'm hesitating to say I loved this book. Maybe it's the fact that my copy was endorsed by Oprah's Book Club? I watched the movie more than four years ago and thought it was great, and I must admit I really enjoyed the reading experience. (Also, this may be one of those rare cases where the book and the movie are both equally amazing!)

White Oleander tells the story of a teenage girl's odyssey through the foster care system of southern California. Astrid Magnussen is a blank slate who is strongly influenced by her ever-changing environment. Chameleon-like, she adapts externally to fit in at each new foster home in the series she endures. It's not until the end, when Astrid has developed her own sense of self, that I realized she took a part of each home with her as she went; that little bits of all the disparate elements of her life can be seen in the person she has become. Which I suppose is true for everyone, but many people don't have such varied experiences.

Speaking of which . . . I had a thought at the end of the book that kind of ruined the experience for me just a little bit. After all the things that Astrid went through, I couldn't help but think it seemed more like a compilation of Foster Daughters' Incidents of Peril than the story of one girl. It almost defied belief that one person would have had such a run of bad luck. On the other hand, the story reminded me of The Glass Castle--though Astrid's life was actually slightly less horrifying--and I had no trouble believing that Jeannette Walls' childhood was real. But it's probably a good thing that I found Astrid's story to be a bit beyond belief.  Though it felt plausible (in parts if not as a whole) and immediate, I subconsciously retained the comfortable knowledge that it was safely in the realm of fiction.


Ti said...

Oh yes, an oldie but a goodie. I listened to the author speak at a book festival once. This was maybe 5 years ago.

Remember Oprah's book picks? They were all heavyweights, riddled with dysfunction. My perfect read. LOL.

Kathy said...

I know, me too! The power wielded by Oprah annoys me, but I think I've been impressed by all of her book picks that I've read. (And I hate to admit that!)

Amanda said...

I just picked this book up. For some reason I thought you had read it a while ago. I look forward to reading it. I saw the movie a very long time ago and I only remember very little, but I know I enjoyed it.

Kathy said...

Maybe you thought I read it a while ago because I saw the movie a while ago? (I wrote about it on my movie blog. I can't remember--do you look at that? Nothing to look at recently, of course--I haven't kept it up for years--but I don't watch near as many movies anymore, anyway.) But yeah, I liked the movie too, and like you, I didn't remember much of it. I think you'll enjoy the book!

Amanda said...

I think you are right. I did read your movie blog too! Haven't started the book yet. Read Game of Thrones instead! Do you follow that show? The book was very good, now to decide if I read the rest even though I watch the show already!