Friday, January 19, 2018

111. "White Oleander" by Janet Fitch

Fitch, Janet. White Oleander. New York: Little Brown and Company, 1999.

390 pages

Reviewed by J. d'Artagnan Love

Twelve year old Astrid's mother killed a man and now Astrid is in foster care. For Astricd, foster care is the exact nightmare that every child pictures. Trauma follows trauma. That is essentially the story. As I read, I wondered if perhaps Janet Fitch sat down and asked herself: in how many ways can I torture a teenage girl? White Oleander was created as her resounding answer.

Fitch's writing is lyrical in some ways, redundant in others. At times, her prose took my breath away. At others I rolled my eyes after the eleventh simile on a single page. Her greatest strength in this novel was character development. The characters were rich, deep, and clearly individuals. Sometimes you read a book and the characters all kind of blend together. That didn't happen in White Oleander. Each character had a unique way being in the world as is represented by Astrid's "museum" at the end of the novel. The book is not so much a story with a conflict and resolution, but more of a character map. For me, this is interesting and kept my attention. Perhaps it is my background in psychology--the Velcro loop for Fitch's hook. If you don't enjoy a deep dive into the mind of a character, or prefer novels that are plot driven, this isn't the book for you.

Overall, it is a commendable work for a debut novel.

4 darts out of 5

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