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Book Review: White Oleander

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In Janet Finch’s White Oleander, an artistic girl named Astrid goes on a painful journey to find herself. Astrid is together with her poet mother Ingrid, until Ingrid commits murder. When Ingrid is sentenced to jail, Astrid is sent into the foster care system.

From the moment you start reading the book, you are pulled into a poetical and cultural writing style that is hard not to appreciate. The poetic side is found through the voices of Ingrid and Astrid. When they are together, they are free spirits that go to places like exotic countries that are richly described. After Ingrid goes to jail and Astrid is sent to foster care, they send each other letters and poems that maintain that free spiritedness until Astrid starts trying to figure out who she is. As for the culture, many references to the arts are made, from painters to musicians to writers.

Another notable thing is the author’s realistic and raw depiction of the foster care system. Sometimes, it was hard to read certain chapters because they were painful images. For instance, one chapter has Astrid getting attacked by dogs while staying at one foster home.

Despite the gritty material, this is still a powerful read. While it may shock some readers, this book is a true testament to pain and survival.

Written by Serena Zola

March 16, 2012 at 8:47 PM

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