❮Ebook❯ ➩ White Oleander Author Janet Fitch – Golanvideoagency.info
Well, what was I supposed to rate it I did work awfully hard on W.O still like it Sad to think Oprah s book club is all over, it was quite an experience. Everywhere Hailed As A Novel Of Rare Beauty And Power, White Oleander Tells The Unforgettable Story Of Ingrid, A Brilliant Poet Imprisoned For Murder, And Her Daughter, Astrid, Whose Odyssey Through A Series Of Los Angeles Foster Homes Each Its Own Universe, With Its Own Laws, Its Own Dangers, Its Own Hard Lessons To Be Learned Becomes A Redeeming And Surprising Journey Of Self Discovery This was a masterful yarn about a complex relationship between mother and daughter It was about the loss of self, the journey of finding oneself, and most importantly the resilience of the human spirit This wasn t a tale of any ordinary bond between mother and daughter, this was a story of the severe dysfunction that occurs when a mother, Ingrid, is imprisoned for murder and a daughter, Astrid, is passed around like garbage from one foster home to another This novel explores the intricacies of their relationship It explores the depth of emotion that Astrid feels toward Ingrid, ranging from obsessive love to all encompassing hatred.Janet Fitch is not just a storyteller She is like Calliope, the Greek Muse of epic poetry Fitch spins letters into gold every word that she chooses is deliberate and precise When you read a book by Fitch it is an experience to savor letting the story wash over your soul in warm, gentle waves Once complete, you will feel emotionally exhausted, yet wholly renewed I urge you to experience this book in all of its glory it is not just a book It is every child that has been mistreated in a foster home It is their voice It is their tears It is hope. Dark, depressing, disturbing, and so beautiful When the author described the August summer heat I felt it, like hot breath on my neck I fell in love with Ingrid and her beauty and ideas of the world Then I became Astrid, and I felt how much she loved her and how bad it hurt to also hate her, but hate Ingrid I did I would walk away from long reading sessions feeling hardened and detached It s not an easy read, but I find literature that can make me feel so strongly well deserving of praise The words were like a sad song I connected with them so much that they became the theme song of my life for days The phoenix must burn to emerge I love that Astrid found love at the end and I loved seeing how her past formed her into who she was I too have been burned by a lost childhood, and spent a lot of time while reading this crying for myself Life makes you or breaks you I too, am a survivor This book will rip your heart apart, and then put it back together again stronger than it was before. This is Astrid s story.We meet her first when she is twelve and in Ingrid s her mother care.Ingrid is a woman of such rare, unearthly beauty as to be most likely found in dreams.Fitch describes her through Astrid s eyes, gradually, poetically, using very sparse language, as the story unfolds, with words that sing, the pages glistening with the image reflected from her eyes The Santa Anas blew in hot from the desert, shrivelling the last of the spring grass into whiskers of pale straw Only the oleanders thrived, their delicate poisonous blossoms, their dagger green leaves We could not sleep in the hot dry nights, my mother and I I woke up at midnight to find her bed empty I climbed to the roof and easily spotted her blonde hair like a white flame in the light of the three quarter moon I sat next to her, and we stared out at the city that hummed and glittered like a computer chip deep in some unknowable machine, holding its secret like a poker hand The edge of her white kimono flapped open in the wind and I could see her breast, low and full Her beauty was like the edge of a very sharp knife. Ingrid also covets beauty in all its many forms Beauty was my mother s law, her religion You could do anything you wanted as long as you were beautiful, as long as you did things beautifully If you weren t, you just didn t exist She had drummed it into my head since I was small. She becomes so wrapped up in her own world, her own needs that Astrid s no longer filter through We swam in the hot aquamarine of the pool, late at night, in the clatter of palms and the twinkle of the new scoured sky My mother floated on her back, humming to herself God, I love this She splashed gently with her fingers, letting her body drift in a slow circle Isn t it funny I am enjoying my hatred so much than I ever enjoyed love Love is tempermental Tiring It makes demands Love uses you Changes its mind Her eyes were closed Beads of water decorated her face, and her hair spread out from her head like jellyfish tendrils But hatred, now That s something you can use Sculpt Wield It s hard or soft, however you need it Love humiliates you, but hatred cradles you It s so soothing When Ingrid is imprisoned Astrid is fostered out to a series of homes in Los Angeles, her mother, an ever present part of the baggage that she carries with her This is such a beautifully written story So simple, the words arranged to please the ear, one after the other, melodic in their cadence and rhythm But Astrid s is not a pretty story I gave her to the quiet boy with short cropped hair and straggly beard, followed the fat boy back into the bushes behind the bathrooms He unbuckled his pants, pushed them down over his hips I knelt on a bed of pine needles, like a supplicant, like a sinner Not like a lover He leaned against the white stucco wall of the bathroom as I prayed with him in my mouth, his hands in my hair.It is too real, too raw, to conform to anyone s preconceived notion of beauty And yet Fitch makes it sing, with her beautiful, simple words I left walking backwards so I wouldn t miss a moment of her I hated the idea of going back to Marvel s, so I walked around the block, feeling Olivia s arms around me, my nose full of perfume and the smell of her skin, my head swirling with what I had seen and heard in the house, so much like ours, and yet not at all And I realised 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.As I read this I became overwhelmed with the number of passages that I wanted to secrete away, to take out, and read again Perhaps that explained the worn and tattered condition of the book I held within my hands, pages yellowing, stained and dog eared or soiled in some other way by the fingers of less careful readers Truly I have done it several times now I can let this fall open to any page and find one of these passages 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.Don t miss a word..read this one for yourselves. I have many thoughts that I m having trouble putting into words Before reading the final chapter of the book, I had to put it down, lean my head back against the couch and think about the experience I ve had while reading this book Astrid s journey, her development from girl to woman, is remarkably crafted Fitch s writing paints the arid desert and mountain brush in such fine detail Atmospherically, this story was superb I was totally immersed in the story, in the physical spaces that Astrid inhabits through her 390 page life My only qualm was that I wish there had been a bit explanation from her mother s perspective But that final interaction in the prison, wow Just wow It took my breath away If you re struggling to get into this book for the first one or two hundred pages, just keep going It s completely worth it. this is a horrifying book, not necessarily for the story s content which IS horrifying , but for it s plot, execution, characterization, and particularly its overcooked writing some observations 1 astrid the novel s protagonist, a fourteen year old girl, is a thoroughly contradictory character some people have written that astrid is not your average teenage girl and that she is gifted if she were such a girl, i would expect much of her i m not a psychologist nor have i ever been shot, but i suspect any fourteen year old girl who s mother was sent to prison for murder, who offered herself sexually to a man three times her age, is shot by her first foster mother, performs oral sex on a boy in exchange for 1 2 bag of marijuana would be SEVERLY emotionally disturbed and troubled astrid, however, seems to care less that she was nearly murdered instead she focuses on and longs for her sexual encounters with ray remember, this is a FOURTEEN year old girl astrid blows her credibility as a narrator very early on because no one who s gone through her experiences would be in as good as shape as she is it also discredits her as a character, and with a discredited character, the novel doesn t stand a chance think about a fourteen year old girl you know now imagine her beaten, shot, mother in prison for murder, sexually loose, and yearning for a lover three times her age it simply wouldn t happen 2 the plot i have trouble with any novel where the plot is advanced by a series of tragedies or dire circumstances often than not, it s a gimmick or crutch inexperienced writers rely on when realistic ideas for authentic plots run thin read joan didion or toni morrison or steinbeck and how see how they use tragedy it s real, honest, and most importanly believable most of the white oleander s is simply too unrealistic 3 the prose borderline comical i m awe struck to read how many people have praised fitch s prose fitch s use of similie is so overdone and forced that it slows the narrative down to a snail s pace similes should be used judiciously and flow naturally fitch, on the other hand, find it s necessary to inject as many as four or five similies in just about every paragraph, and most of them just ring false the white metaphor is also an unfortunate victim count the number of times fitch uses white to describe astrid, ingrid, clothes, food, dishes, the sky she beats the white metaphor and never lets the reader decipher it for themselves the majority of the book is over described the sex scenes, in particular, are dreadful i don t want to read how a fourteen year old remembers every graphic detail of performing oral sex on a middle aged man it s too much a 14 year old girl who s performed oral sex on a man is not going to long for it again i can tell you that further at one point astrid sees a shiny convertible, compares it to a man, and imagines herself climaxing while laying on its hood during her encounter with ray, she describes the act as riding a horse through the surf good grief.4 the characters and uniformly cliched and poorly drawn astrid s mother is the self absorbed, feminist poet her first foster mother is a bible thumping floozy her stepmother s boyfriend is the object of astrid s desires, even though he s then three times her age the second stepmother is demanding and her husband is quiet and reserved and of course we have the hooker with a heart of gold who takes astrid under her wing in fact, the professional prostitute is the only emotionally stable and nice character in the entire 150 pages that i read i m sure that as most of the teenage girls grow up and mature, they ll see white oleander for what is is an immature novel masquerading as high literature and i sincerely hope that no young women identify with astrid in any way that s the real tragedy. After reading her scorching short story in Los Angeles Noir, I smoked a cigarette I don t smoke , napped and reached for a novel by Janet Fitch Round 2 is White Oleander, which Oprah s Book Club made a sweepstakes winner at the time of its publication in 1999 and for good reason This is fiction at its most intoxicating, with boozy prose but also beautifully woven narrative, without a single lull in story or a character who fails to make a mark Its vision and breadth reminded me of W Somerset Maugham s Of Human Bondage, with a teenage girl in Los Angeles surviving a succession of mentors that mold her into an adult.The novel is narrated by Astrid Magnussen, who introduces herself at the age of 12 living in a crummy Hollywood apartment with her mother Ingrid Employed as a layout designer for a movie magazine when she s not hustling books of her poems, Ingrid is devoted to aesthetics She s trucked Astrid from Paris to Amsterdam to Mexico and takes her to work as well, certain that her daughter s needs can be met in the audience of her mother At her poetry reading, Ingrid is approached by Barry Kolker, a chubby, dark and slovenly dressed man who Ingrid rejects on sight, but whose self confidence and persistence gradually wins her over.Having never known her father, Astrid is encouraged that Barry might make them a family, as well as provide stability in her life Outside of drawing, life revolves around her mother This takes a turn for the worse when Barry breaks off contact with Ingrid, crushing her self esteem and drawing Viking retribution The police come for her and Astrid spends the next year in a fugue state, watching her zombie eyed mother sentenced to thirty five years to life She s ultimately placed with her first foster family, adopted by a born again stripper named Starr who lives in Tujunga with her four children in a trailer On visiting day, a van transports Astrid to Chino to sit with her mother I looked into her determined face, cheekbones like razors, her eyes making me believe I was afraid you d be mad at me She stretched me out at arm s length to look at me, her hands gripping my shoulders Why would you think that Because I couldn t lie well enough But I couldn t say it.She hugged me again Those arms around me made me want to stay there forever I d rob a bank and get convicted so we could always be together I wanted to curl up in her lap, I wanted to disappear into her body, I wanted to be one of her eyelashes, or a blood vessel in her thigh, a mole on her neck Is it terrible here Do they hurt you Not as much as I hurt them, she said, and I knew she was smiling, though all I could see was the denim of her sleeve and her arm, still lightly tanned I had to pull away a little to see her Yes, she was smiling, her half smile, the little comma shaped curve at the corner of her mouth I touched her mouth She kissed my fingers They assigned me to office work I told them I d rather clean toilets than type their bureaucratic vomit Oh, they don t much care for me I m on grounds crew I sweep, pull weeds, though of course only inside the wire I m considered a poor security risk Imagine I won t tutor their illiterates, teach writing classes, or otherwise feed the machine. I will not serveShe stuck her nose in my hair, she was smelling me Your hair smells of bread, Clover and nutmeg I want to remember you just like this, in that sadly hopeful pink dress, and those bridesmaid, promise of prom night pumps Your foster mother s, no doubt Pink being the ultimate clich Left to survive on her own, Astrid accepts some of the messages she hears at the Truth Assembly of Christ and grows close to Starr s carpenter boyfriend, a Vietnam veteran named Ray Starr grows suspicious of her adopted daughter but Astrid convinces her that not only is an affair preposterous, but sending her back would only push Ray away Astrid soon consummates a relationship with him anyway and to cope with her doubts, Starr returns to booze When it comes time for her to move on, Astrid has to be taken away in an ambulance Recovering from her wounds, she s adopted by Marvel Turlock Next stop Van Nuys.Marvel enlists Astrid as a servant but provides a kind of stability she s never known Now fourteen, Astrid becomes fascinated by a debonair neighbor named Olivia Johnstone who Marvel has disparaged as a whore Earning Olivia s trust, Astrid learns that she was a loan officer who parlayed her beauty and charm to profit handsomely from a number of suitors The friendship continues to mold and harden the girl and results in her being sent back Considered a problem child, Astrid is placed with Amelia Ramos, an interior decorator who uses the adoption assistance checks for four girls to renovate her Hollywood home, starving her charges with only one meal per day.Astrid endears herself to a new case worker, a screenwriter gathering material, to find placement with her dream foster mother, a childless young actress named Claire Richards Astrid even gets along with her new foster father, who travels often producing a paranormal TV series Astrid learns her role here is to watch over Claire, clinically depressed and possibly suicidal from lack of love from her husband She does her best but with a year left of high school, is on the move again, this time to a hovel in Sunland, where her new foster mother Rena Gruschenka strips Astrid of her pride but replaces it with something valuable Rena turned her head to the side, shaded her eyes with her hand, glanced at me, then went back to sunny side up You are Russian I think A Russian always ask, what is meaning of life She pulled a long, depressed face What is meaning of life, maya liubovIs our bad weather Here is California, Astrid darling You don t ask meaning Too bad Akhmatova, but we got beach volleyball, sports car, tummy tuck Don t worry, be happy Buy something She smiled to herself, arms down at her sides, eyes closed, glistening on her chaise lounge like bacon frying in a pan Small beads of water clung to the tiny hairs of her upper lip, pooled between her breasts Maybe she was the lucky one, I thought, a woman who had divested herself of both future and past No dreams, no standards, a woman who smoked and drank and slept with men like Sergei, men who were spiritually what came up out of the sewers when it rained I could learn from her Rena Gruschenka didn t worry about her teeth, didn t take vitamin C She ate salt on everything and was always drunk by three She certainly didn t feel sick because she wasn t going to college and making something of her life She lay in the sun and gave the workmen hard ons while she could You get a boyfriend, you stop worry, she said.I didn t want to tell her I had a boyfriend Hers.There are novels that seem like they were written just for you Compelling female characters Electric prose Acidic wit Fantastic dialogue You like master pupil stories, don t you What about the ultimate L.A novel How about detail that s so sharp you draw blood You ll have it Read White Oleander Janet Fitch does all of this in ways than I have the space to describe, but her characters, particularly the incarcerated Viking mother Ingrid Magnussen who could skin a Mama Grizzly for brunch and the fatally weak Claire Richards will be with me for as long as any tragic character in Dickens or Maugham I mean By April, the desert had already sucked spring from the air like blotting paper The Hollywood Hills rose unnaturally clear, as if we were looking at them through binoculars The new leaves were wilting in the heat that left us sweating and dispirited in the house with the blinds down.Claire brought out the jewelry she kept in the freezer and dumped it onto the bed, a pirate s treasure, deliciously icy Freezing strands of green jade beads with jeweled clasps, a pendant of amber enclosing a fossilized fern I pressed it, cold, to my cheek I draped an antique crystal bracelet down the part in my hair, let it lap on my forehead like a cool tongue That was my great aunt Priscilla s, Claire said She wore it to her presentation ball at the Waldorf Astoria, just before the Great War She lay on her back in her underwear, her hair dark with sweat, a smoky topaz bracelet across her forehead intersected by an intricate gold chain that came to rest on the tip of her nose She was painfully thin, with sharp hipbones and ribs stark as a carved wooden Christ I could see her beauty mark above the line of her panties She was a field nurse at Ypres A very brave woman Every bracelet, every bead, had a story I plucked an onyx ring from the pile between us on the bed, rectangular, its black slick surface pierced by a tiny diamond I slipped it on, but it was tiny, only fit my smallest finger, above the knuckle Whose was this I held it out so she could see it without moving her head Great grandmother Matilde A quintessential Parisienne Its owner dead a hundred years, perhaps, but still she made me feel large and ill bred I imagined jet black hair, curls, a sharp tongue Her black eyes would have caught my least awkwardness She would have disapproved of me, my gawky arms and legs, I would have been too large for her little chairs and tiny gold rimmed porcelain cups, a moose among antelope I gave it to Claire, who slipped it right on.The garnet choker, icy around my neck, was a wedding present from her mill owning Manchester great grandfather to his wife, Beatrice The gold jaguar with emerald eyes I balanced on my knee was brought back from Brazil in the twenties by her father s aunt Geraldine Woods, who danced with Isadora Duncan I was wearing Claire s family album Maternal grandmothers and paternal great aunts, women in emerald taffeta, velvet and garnets Time, place, and personality locked into stone and silver filigree.In comparison to this, my past was smoke, a story my mother once told me and later denied No onyxes for me, no aquamarines memorializing the lives of my ancestors I had only their eyes, their hands, the shape of a nose, a nostalgia for snowfall and carved wood.Claire dripped a gold necklace over one closed eye socket, jade beads in the other She spoke carefully, nothing slid off They used to bury people like this Mouths full of jewels and a gold coin over each eye Fare for the ferryman She drizzled her coral necklace into the well of her navel, and her pearl double strand, between her breasts After a minute, she picked up the pearls, opened her mouth and let the strand drop in, closed her lips over the shiny eggs Her mother had given her the pearls when she married, though she didn t want her to marry a Jew When Claire told me, she expected me to be horrified, but I d lived with Marvel Turlock, Amelia Ramos Prejudice was hardly a surprise The only thing I wondered was why would she give her pearls.Claire lay still, pretending to be dead A jeweled corpse in her pink lace lingerie, covered with a fine drizzle of sweat I wasn t sure I liked this new game Through the French doors, in the foot of space showing under the blinds, I could see the garden, left wild this spring Claire didn t garden any, no pruning and weeding under her Chinese peaked hat She didn t stake the flowers, and now they bloomed ragged, the second year glads tilting to one side, Mexican evening primroses annexing the unmowed lawn.Ron was away again, twice in one month, this time in Andalusia taping a piece about Gypises Out combing the world for what was most bizarre, racking up frequent flier miles If he wanted to see something weird and uncanny, he should have just walked into his own bedroom and seen his wife lying on the bed in her pink lace panties and bra, covered in jade and pearls, pretending she was dead.I could keep typing because White Oleander stays at that pitched level of character, black wit and psychological complexity for 446 pages, with the pulse of a mother daughter relationship underneath and in climax, a memorable confrontation between them Fitch is dialed in to the human condition, depicting how those we come into intimate contact with will hurt us, inspire us and chisel away at us to expose whoever we were destined to be It s harrowing, it s real, it s rock n roll, it s one of the best novels I ve read In contrast to a lot of the others, this is also storytelling, constantly moving forward, never devolving into Writing while Astrid is on her journey.Length 138,086 words There must be a reason why I ve been able to recall many of the books I ve read over the years, but that it took me until one of my most restless and procrastibatory nights in front of the blank Word doc to dredge this one up from the recesses of memory, even though I read it within the past year or two.I m pretty sure I know what that reason is, too it s because on some level I m embarrassed that I read this book, and that I actually really liked it.I m pretty sure I know where that embarrassment comes from, too it s rooted in some pretty deep level misogyny and discomfort about my most womany womanliness, or something like that anyway.This book is the most Oprahiest Book Clubby selection I ve ever read in my life It s also the most estrogened out, hyper womany fiction I can even begin to think of All the criticisms and stereotypes I and a lot of you hold about lady lit are present here, by the bundle poetic, even overwrought language melodramatic plotting over the top characters vivid, sensual description almost fetishistic focus on sex, sexuality, and relationships aw, crap, I don t even know what my dreadful vestigial stereotypes about women s fiction are, only I m 10,000% sure this book fulfilled all of them It s called WHITE FUKKIN OLEANDER, for PETE S SAKE Here s where the internalized misogyny comes in, of course, because WHAT THE HELL IS WRONG WITH THAT This book was far from perfect, there are some valid and gender neutral criticisms I have of it, but it was good, and I enjoyed it, and the fact is that I apparently find this somehow embarrassing, and on some level must think I should really be digging on Chuck Palahniuk or Ernest Hemingway or that guy who writes those series books about old timey sailing ships that middle aged men love so much Like that is way respectable or something ARGH Have all these thousands of dollars and book hours spent on feminist indoctrination been for naught I ENJOYED WHITE OLEANDER Yes, of course it did get a bit too silly for me at times, but on the whole I THOUGHT IT WAS A PRETTY GOOD STORY Okay, it was melodramatic, but that s part of what made it good It s about this blonde shorty with a crazy, really horrid white witch of a psycho blonde poet mother, who is scorned by this chumpy seeming LA cheeseball in a Hawaiian shirt, and hell hath no fury like a psycho poet lady, the mom kills guy, goes to prison, blah blah blah So the kid, Astrid or maybe Ingrid I forget winds up in foster care, and the book is her bouncing around from LA foster home to foster home and experiencing, as my own mother put it, all these different types of moms.Like Push, another book I need to review, there are moments you cannot believe the author was able to type with a straight face You re like, NO, come ON, this is RIDICULOUS You can t POSSIBLY make ANOTHER outlandishly bad thing happen to this poor defenseless character Pull yourself together Janet, I CAN T take this seriously Like at one point the girl gets attacked by a dog, and I actually started laughing BUT NONE OF IT IS MORE RIDICULOUS THAN JUDE THE OBSCURE, WHICH WAS NOT, LAST TIME I CHECKED, PART OF OPRAH S BOOK CLUB LADY WRITERS DO NOT HAVE A MONOPOLY ON THIS KIND OF PATHOS Anyway, I liked this book I can t believe I m so defensive about it I must really have issues But does anyone else on here know what I mean I noticed that NONE of my friends have read this book, which makes me wonder whether there are others among us who have somehow forgotten, as I had myself, until I sat down tonight to write a paper.BTW, I tried reading part of this years ago, when the author visited my college writing class she had gone to my school , and I couldn t choke it down that first time BUT, Ms Fitch did tell a good story about Oprah calling her personally to say she was in the book club, which I won t repeat here because I have run out of characters. I am appalled by the worldview presented in this book Yet the circumstances surrounding Ingrid, a poetess who goes to prison for murder are so artificial I don t want to squirm when I m reading, and I read for pleasure Is there a market for books like this Of course there is And I ve got nothing against people who like this book But should they lap it up like it s licorice The book is also about foster homes and what can go wrong I just don t think that the author should be so fake in her plotting in an attempt to fake verisimilitude I did like it on some level.This book is similar to books by Khaled Hosseini It s a compliment, but at the same time, a denial.