White Oleander, Janet Fitch. New York: Little, Brown & Co., 1999. hardcover, 390 pps.
White Oleander is a real gem of a book. Ingrid is a poet of some note in the coffeehouse crowd who becomes a cause celebrite after poisoning an ex-boyfriend and landing in prison. Astrid, the narrator, is her teenaged daughter and an artist in her own right. Astrid lands in the foster care system. She suffers through a variety of placements. She makes it out through to young adulthood with her muse intact.
I don't have experience with the foster care system myself but I have a couple of friends that do. They were foster mothers in Vermont-- mostly to boys-- over the space of several years. White Oleander caused me to question my own perspective of the boys' experiences as foster kids.
In spite of being an Oprah's Book Club book (sorry, fans-- I'm not), I liked this book. The language was lyrical and colorful. The dialogues and the characters were believable and well-rendered. The author tackled a tough subject and came out shining. Additionally, White Oleander the book cleared up a few things that I had missed in my prior viewing of White Oleander the movie. The book was not a fictionalized collection of morose reflections on the temporal relationships experienced by foster kids nor was it a catalogue of traumatic events that foster kids can experience. There is both heartbreak and true joy in this book.
sapphoq reviews says: highly recommended.