The rawness and compassion of “White Oleander” by Janet Fitch had me turning pages so fast that I was surprised when it was finished. This book read like a favorite album that I can’t stop listening to on repeat. It carried me into the deep despair and depression that comes with being an orphan child, and raised me like I was its own. White Oleander is a book I will never forget.
Fitch captures the bond of a mother and daughter like a photograph, while simultaneously weaving the implications of imperfection into their relationship. This renowned fictional story follows a young girl by the name of Astrid Magnussen into adulthood while she navigates how to grow up and deems her religion as “survival.” This novel captivated me in the same way poetry does. I wanted to listen to the brute advice Astrid’s mother gave and I wanted to fall into lust with every person that gave Astrid hope. Hope was a loose character in this book. It left as soon as it was near and pulled away every single time.
This novel has gained praise from the likes of Oprah Winfrey, and was even adapted into a film after it became a national bestseller in the early 2000s. I applaud this book for its versatility and creativeness. The themes of motherhood were depicted in such a poignant manner—they made me grovel and thank God for the woman that birthed me.
White Oleander by Janet Fitch. Hachette, September 2006.
Reviewer bio: Ashanté J. Ford is 21 years old. She is in college pursuing her bachelor’s degree in International Relations.
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