About White Oleander

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White Oleander
(Little, Brown, 1999)

Astrid is the only child of a single mother, Ingrid, a brilliant, obsessed poet who wields her luminous beauty to intimidate and manipulate men. Astrid worships her mother and cherishes their private world full of ritual and mystery–but their idyll is shattered when Astrid’s mother falls apart over a lover. Deranged by rejection, Ingrid murders the man, and is sentenced to life in prison.

White Oleander is the unforgettable story of Astrid’s journey through a series of foster homes and her efforts to find a place for herself in impossible circumstances. Each home is its own universe, with a new set of laws and lessons to be learned. With determination and humor, Astrid confronts the challenges of loneliness and poverty, and strives to learn who a motherless child in an indifferent world can become.

Tough, irrepressible, funny, and warm, Astrid is one of the most indelible characters in recent fiction. White Oleander is an unforgettable story of mothers and daughters, burgeoning sexuality, the redemptive powers of art, and the unstoppable force of the emergent self. Written with exquisite beauty and grace, this is a compelling debut by an author poised to join the ranks of today’s most gifted novelists.

91 Responses to “About White Oleander”

  1. If I were stranded on a desert island, this is the book I’d want with me.

  2. Now there’s a compliment–thanks!

    • ma’am can i ask why you write this brilliant novel (white oleander)?
      do you relate your self to Astrid?
      thanks for your response ma’am
      more power!!!

      • Hi Jonel,
        Basic answer–one thing led to another. But if you look through some of the interviews here on the blog, you’ll get some more in-depth answers to that question–and thank you for your kind note of approval!
        best, Janet

    • I want to thank you for writing a line in White Oleander which helped me immensely. I believe the woman was Eastern European and she told Astrid that if she wanted to remember to remember. Astrid did not have to carry around so much baggage. I lost three members of my very small family in a row and inherited all their belongings. I was terrified of getting rid of anything. I’ve seen the reality shows about horders and feel that’s where I was headed. However, after reading that “life line” I was able to start to part with objects and not be afraid that I was going to lose the person that it belonged to all over again. If I wanted to remember, I just had to remember. Thank you from the bottom of my heart. I know my family has had a much better life because of my ability to part with the past.

  3. Candi Says:

    White Oleander is one of my all-time favorites! I’m curious– what are some of your favorite books?

  4. I swear, I have never read a better book in my entire life. Everyday, I will read small parts of the book just to remind me of this great novel. More of a bible than a book, I love White Oleander.

  5. I agree with Emily Avent. I have White Oleander always by my bed. I have read it so many times. Janet, your language and writing style completely suck the reader in. Everything is so vivid and descriptive, clear. I gave a copy to a friend of mine and he likes its so far! He’s going to pass it along when he’s done. I also love the audiobook narrated by Alyssa Bresnahan; although it’s impossible to purchase and hard to find at libraries.
    Michelle Pfeiffer was a perfect Ingrid, so deliciously evil.

    I’m looking forward to reading Paint It Black.

  6. Sarah Says:

    White Oleander is on my top 3. I rarely re-read things, but this is one that I have read many, many times. <3

  7. Nice to know that I’m not the only one obsessed with this book. Each word, so carefully chosen–it is a sacrament. I want to consume sections daily.
    I only wish we had another chance at the screenplay. The book deserved better!

  8. Jeffrey Weinthal Says:

    The other day I had an idea for a cool twist on White Oleander:
    What if Ingrid didn’t get caught?
    How would this effect Astrid?
    Would they come to live in a mother daughter “Bony and Clyde” fashion?
    How would being raised by Ingrid rather than in foster homes reshape the woman that Astrid would become?
    Would Astrid ultimately become what Ingrid was at a younger age?

    I want to write this as something to keep me busy this summer. I don’t intend to publish or make any money off it. I just want to do it as something for me to have for myself. Before I start, I want to know if this is OK with you Janet. I won’t type a single key until I get the OK from you.

    With all my best as your fan,

    JEFFREY L. WEINTHAL

    • Jeffrey Weinthal Says:

      I appreciate your honesty.
      I hope that you don’t think anything bad about me because of it.
      I really am a huge fan of yours and I would never offend you on purpose.
      Sorry about making you feel uneasy.
      I hope that you accept my sincerest apology.

      Your Fan,
      JEFFREY

  9. I love, love, love this book so much, and loaned it out so many times to so many friends, that the binding started to fall apart. I somehow managed to tape it all back together, carefully making sure I had each and every page. And then I went and bought another copy. Hah!

  10. Hannah Says:

    Like Lisa, my copy is also held together with masking tape – so much in fact that there are discoloured layers from various stages of disintergration. I have had the same copy for almost six years now and, as with many of the other commenters, re-read it constantly. Every sentence is perfect. almost any paragraph could be taken out of the context of the novel and would still be a beautiful and understandable piece of prose. I feel so lucky to have stumbled across such an intelligent, comprehensive book to shape the remainder of my adolescence, so much so that I actually considered applying to study abroad in order to take your creative writing class.

    Paint It Black is also another brilliant effort and I particularly envy the way in which you are able to display the various effects of class divides, the distribution of wealth and education and the value we attach to different ascepts of cultre, particulrly how people from different walks of life can appreciate art froms in similar and different ways simultaneously. Lastly, I find it interesting both how similar and different the characters of Josie and Astrid are. I cannot wait for the next installment.

    The one question I have is on the subject of character development. What most intrigues me is the way you are able to allow Astrid a voice in prose which is both natural to her character and accesible to the audience. To write a novel of the journey of a girl that is simoultaneously belivable of the thought process of a girl aged twelve, the girl as a grown woman telling the story of her childhood, and an adult approach to a ‘child’s’ story, whilst maintaining the dialogue appropriate to that of a teenager, is amazing. What technique do you apply in order to so accurately mirror astrids thoughts in her speech, without making the language seem unbelievable for her age?

    Thank you for writing,
    Hannah

    • You have to pick a protagonist who will have very interesting thoughts, because your reader is not a child. While the vocabulary has to mirror where a character is in their development — for realism — teenagers often have very interesting insights and issues which can be dealt with in a subtle and sophisticated way. The contrast between what they say and what they’re thinking is also full of possibilities. If you have a character who has interesting thoughts but not the vocabulary to be a good first person point of view character, you can always do them in third person, and use your own vocabulary to describe their thoughts. But if the thoughts are uninteresting, it’s not going to work, whether they’re 14 or 42.
      thanks for the thoughtful comment!
      Janet

  11. Hannah Says:

    * please excuse the appalling typing, it is 5am and I procrastinating from writing an essay

  12. Margot Says:

    “White Oleander” is a light in this dark world. I read some older comments and I agree on the fact that the book is like my own Bible. I’m French so I have discovered the story in a foreign language but I read a lot of quotes on the internet and I thought that your writing is heartbreakingly beautiful and poetic. The words just draw scars on your mind and never fade away. I remember a quote of Ingrid in the book: “Always learn poems by heart. They have to become the marrow in your bones. Like fluoride in the water, they’ll make your soul impervious to the world’s soft decay.” I wish I could learn “White Oleander” by heart. This is my favorite book ever and sometimes in these moments of life where everything seems dark and hopeless, it reminds me of the strength I have in me and the purpose of breathing. Dylan Thomas is my favorite poet, and Sylvia Plath as well and the mood, the atmosphere of your book remind me of their works. I just bought “White Oleander” and “Paint it black” in English… I can’t wait to read them without any language betrayal. I hope that a new novel will bloom for your amazing mind. You have changed my life… this book has saved my life.
    One of my favoirte quote of the book, from Astrid: “The pearls weren’t really white, they were a warm oyster beige, with little knots in between so if they broke, you only lost one. I wished my life could be like that, knotted up so that even if something broke, the whole thing wouldn’t come apart.”

  13. meghna Says:

    I just loved the book.its an artistic genius.every word,every line is so beautifully framed and written that it just leaves a remarkable impression in ur mind.It took me around 45 days to finish this novel.Every word i read made me reflect back and feel the emotions.

  14. Kristyn Says:

    “White Oleander” is my favorite book of all time– and as a 4th year English major, I have read a lot of books!
    Although I must have read “White Oleander” hundreds of times, I feel as though I discover something new about the characters, the city of Los Angeles, poetry, etc each time I pick it up.
    I’m dying to know– who is “the man from Council Bluffs”?
    Thank you, Janet, for writing this beautiful and inspiring book.

    • It’s my Dad. he was a great reader, he was the one who got me started in all this.

    • Katherine Manser Says:

      I just re-read your comment and noticed that I duplicated the English major portion – I just re-read White Oleander yet again and it still amazes me that in all my reading I have yet to find another work that is so lyrical, yet intense.

  15. Katherine Manser Says:

    My dog-eared, meticulously underlined copy is proof that this is the only book I’ve had the motivation to read several times. I came across it at a crucial point in my life, so I may be biased, but this is literally (no pun intended) one of the most beautiful piece of literature I’ve come across in all my years as an English major and voracious reader.

  16. bombintime Says:

    oh my goodness, I cannot believe you are on here.
    Your book, white oleander, not to sound completely crazy (whatever that word means) but I carry it to most places with me. It’s one of the most special books ever written and means.. ah so much to me.
    Perfect writing. It’s really immaculate.

  17. Anonymous Says:

    This is an amazing book i went through it thinking oh my god what a amazing heartfelt. as i read through It felt like Astrid herself wrote White Oleander biased on her life I have to say that is a amazing job. it is so hard to write like you are the charater.
    I try to get my friends to read it but because they and I am deaf they do not like reading unlike me. I hope you can reply and think how I say this

    • Thanks for the kind comment! So interesting that you’ve experienced deaf people as less likely to enjoy reading! I would have guessed the opposite. In getting anyone to read more, I think the secret is not giving people the books I like, but in thinking about them and what they like–if someone likes thriller movies, then thriller books are perfect. If people like romantic comedies, I recommend romantic/comedic novels. Drama-lovers get dramas. Soap-opera lovers get chick-lit. If people only like “true stories” and the news, then I’m looking for non-fiction and memoir. Personally, I love super-emotional, dark, highly-dramatic, lyrically-written literary fiction. But I wouldn’t recommend those books to just anybody.

  18. Kalkoosa Says:

    Well I have to say I’m impressed by your ability to make me love these flawed characters no matter what they do and even if I hate their actions. I’m more an Ingrid myself with a large bit of Astrid always rowing my sails to the humane side. I just wonder, if given a chance would you be an Astrid or an Ingrid or both? I love lyrical writing; yours is one of the finest.

  19. The moment I started reading White Oleander, I fell in love with it. Every time I lose someone or something in my life, I re-read it. Both Astrid and Ingrid serve as an incredible source of hope and strength. Thank you so much for this book.

  20. Hi Jane,
    I am a grad student in Social Work @ Florida Atlantic University. Your book is part of our Children Welfare courses. I cut and paste my comment for the rest of the students. I am analyzing Ingrid’s root of psychological maltreatment. It would be intersting to know your opinion about what I wrote. I can also presented to them as your feedback.
    Here I go….

    Ingrid’s root of psychological maltreatment sat at the dysfunctional narcissistic needs not being met in her life. She is the universe and Astrid is a rocky planet that remind her of a hated past and the reason she could not pay her electric bills because she need new shoes. As Astrid said: “She was a beautiful woman dragging a crippled foot and I was that foot”. Astrid thought of her mother as “Queen Christina, cool and sad, eyes trained on some distant horizon. That was where she belonged…My deepest fear was that someday she would find her way back there and never returns”. Prison was the distant horizon that left Astrid alone for the rest of her childhood.
    Ingrid, as many women in our society, was someone who knows that we live in patriarchal world and she knows that she is oppressed in our society, not only because she is poor but women. Ingrid’s isolation and resentment is recreated in her relationship with her daughter with neglect and maltreatment. She thought the world was disgusting and vulgar and lacks the beauty she wants. Ingrid felt lonely, sad, and desperate for the kind of love her narcissistic personality crave and humanly need. Ingrid felt burdened with her role as a mother, as lover, and as a women in our patriarchal society. She felt anger because she never gets her needs met. She is unable to maintain a long-term relationship because of the same reason.
    She tries to discipline Ingrid to satisfy her own needs rather than benefit her daughter. Ingrid lives and perceives a hostile world in many cases because unsatisfying adult relationships. Ingrid’s only consistency is her life description of an un-hopeful and hostile world in every letter she sent to Astrid.
    Ingrid especially qualifies for the Polansky, DeSaix, and Sharlin(1972) type of neglectful mother’s personalities, impulse ridden. She has low frustration tolerance, therefore the inability of delay gratification. She constantly uses poor judgment in her actions as it shown when she left Ingrid with Annie, a neighbor, for one year, or when she become so obsessed with Barry to expose her daughter to so much anger, rancor and a killing plan. Her energy is always directed in her undertakings, to satisfy her own needs and obsessions. Her consistency is questionable, and if there is any demonstration of affection is for her own benefit.
    Using Crittenden(1999) criteria about how information is processed, Ingrid demonstrate emotional neglect. The cognitive process excludes affect. She makes sense of world in cognitive terms and Ingrid has learned that her mother is emotionally unavailable.

  21. This wonderful book has touhced me. Thanks for it. Jana

  22. Kristen Says:

    I’ll have to say reading wasn’t always an easy thing for me growing up. After seeing White Oleander on Lifetime and finding out it was a book first I thought I’d try reading it. I never thought I’d love reading so much!! I read it twice. Then when I discovered Paint it Black, I was thrilled and bought a copy right away. I LOVED that as well. I keep switching back and forth between the two, I just love them. I searched online and just realized you have one other book, KICKS, which I will be picking up as soon as possible and I can’t wait till your new book is released. Since I love your writing so much, do you suggest any other writers to me, that I may enjoy as well? Thanks you for all your great writing!

  23. Daphney Says:

    I have never read the book White Oleander however the movie hits close to home. I was taking away at 6, lived in foster care, was adopted twice, and ended up growing up in group homes. I went through many of the same obstetrical as I still struggle with some of the scars my past has placed on me. This move had done a lot for me. I have since realized that the past is what has made me. I am a good person and a strong woman. I know that I have made some decision do to my upbringing and I am a tad be guarded as a person because of it. This book also helped me ex plane my life to my teenage daughter and bring out a softer side of me.

    Thank you,
    Daph

  24. Ryan Koch Says:

    I am wanting to get a signed copy of White Oleander for my fiance for Christmas. is there any way I can do this? please email me rkhawkeye@gmail.com

  25. This book has affected me so much. It inspired me to start writing seriously and it’s the best path my life has ever taken. The characters live beyond the pages and linger in my heart to this day. This will always be a favorite of mine, no matter what other novel may capture my attention for a time and then fade away.

  26. Meredith Says:

    I was absolutely obsessed with your book when it first came out. For years I would read it over and over again. I couldn’t get Astrid out of my head. This year I finally became a foster parent and I see how accurate Astrids story is. YOU inspired me to change young people’s lives with your book.

  27. This book. Well, I’ve laughed, I’ve cried, and I quote this book silently as well as aloud and no one understands haha.
    I am strangely in love with the character of Astrid and I feel like I can really relate to her because of her experiences of being in “the system” of foster care in Southern California. It’s like everything you described about that part of her life was so true and so vivid it was like I was there. Just amazing and breathtaking. Was it based on your story? Or any events of your life? Just curious because all the details were so realistic and graphic! This is by far my favorite book and when I die it’s being buried with me. incredible! I love your work, and please never stop writing!

  28. hello, Ms. Fitch,
    I’m reading the book White Oleander, It is great. I’m a virtual academic student at USC, doing masters in social work. Is this coincidence that the teacher asks to read a book written by a teacher at USC? Anyway, I need to write bio psycho social aspects of the characters of your book. Could you help me with that ? could you answer some questions? You know it is a good impression to write some words directly from the author.
    Thank you.
    Edna Felix

    • Hi Edna–
      Bio psycho social aspects? Hmmmm… Probably could, though it’s been a while. More in tune with Paint It Black at this point. Thanks for the kind words and sure, I’ll give it a try.
      best,
      Janet F.

  29. Wildflower Says:

    Miss Janet, are you really one of those authors who gets twitchy and uneasy and disparaging when it comes to fanfiction?

    That’s your choice in the end but, they’re really nothing more than a means for fans to communicate. A means of getting ideas and opinions out in unpublished, not-for-profit paragraphs on the internet. Have you ever read any? You may like it, or at least find it interesting. Or appalling, or funny, or inoffensive depending on the story or point of view. Makes for interesting discussion, if nothing else.

    That’s not to say all of it is good. Far from it, fanfiction can often be an unedited cesspool. But it shows a reader’s voice and point of view, which can be a really rare thing in literature.

    Not that I’m exactly telling you to go dig some up either, if you haven’t already. I know many an author who would jump off a bridge if JK Rowling found their ff.net account. The 4th wall exists for a reason.

    But it’s an established thing none the less, and I’m just curious if you have a genuine issue with it, or could potentially find it pretty nonthreatening all around? Or would rather just stay univolved?

    Genuine curiosity. Really do adore your novels and how you handle characters. Thanks!

    • Hi Wildflower–
      Not sure what fanfiction is! Is it continuing a story or book of a writer you admire?
      Thanks for the kind words!
      best,
      Janet

  30. Kristopher Bouwmeester Says:

    Dear Janet Fitch,
    I have a quick question for you and a long explanation.
    I’m wondering if I send you a copy of your book White Oleander, if you could sign it for my wife for our one year anniversary?
    Here is why I think it is a fantastic idea.
    My wife and I have been together for 9 years now but just got married last summer. The first year wedding anniversary is “Paper”. I thought, what could be better than her favorite author signing her favorite book? A little background information (Janet, you can stop reading at any point now). Joy (my wife) and I met in first year theatre class in university. Joy continued on in her education taking many acting and creative writing classes and finished with her education degree (clearly I did not take many writing classes…). She is now one of the best teachers and has a grade 3-4 split class at a Fine Arts School where she also teaches drama. Joy is an avid reader; she reads 2-3 books a month. Since she reads so frequently, and she’s collected so many books over the years, she is often asked for recommendations for a good read. A couple of years ago, she lent out her copy of White Oleander (which is one of the few books she’s reread many times). This copy, which she had highlighted and written many comments in, was never returned back to her. This event has led her to create a sign out system for her books. Although I’ll never be able to get this special copy back I was hoping to replace it, with your help of course, with something just sentimental.
    Thank you for your consideration on this epic matter.
    Kristopher Bouwmeester
    Email: dr.bouwmeester@gmail.com
    PS: she is the most wonderful person anyone could be lucky enough to meet.

  31. Tricia Says:

    Such an amazing book truly one of my favorites. This book is so rich, sad and beautiful that it reads like poetry. I have searched the internet far and wide seen and seen the question asked with varied answers. I and so many others are dying to know what is the Penhaligon’s fragrance that Olivia gives Astrid?

  32. Ninù Says:

    Av just finished the white oleander and av not read a book with an urge to re-read and this just have it .its artistic and poetic nature left me to savor.

  33. I believe White Oleander is worthy of a sequel. Is it possible ?

    • Thanks May… A novel’s a lot like a mathematical equation… if you do it right, you find its ‘proof’– and then you’ve said what you wanted to say. I’d never say never, but don’t see a sequel at this point. I have other stories that still want to be explored.
      wish you more good reading!
      Janet

  34. Frederick Says:

    Hi Janet.

    I have never felt the same again after reading White Oleander. It made me miss someone, but i dont know who that person is. Astrid is the best character writen in years. I am totaly amazed by your ability to invoke such feelings on a reader.

    My question is, Thomas Newman, who wrote the theme to the movie, would you say the piano piece embodies the essence of the novel, or what theme song would you have chosen for the book.

    I am a South-African fan, and would like to let you know that even in our part of the world, you are one of the most talked about writers. A good novel is universal.

    Thank you.

    • Thanks FRederick!
      I love the lyricism of that piece. Can’t really think of an overarching theme I would have preferred… each home seemed to have its own particular ‘music’ to me.
      appreciate the kind note!
      best,
      Janet

  35. Hello Janet,
    I think White Oleander is an incredibly intellectual novel, and it fascinates me every time I read it. I am usually addicted to memoirs about troubled childhoods and families, partly because of my own experiences. I have read some fiction stories that try to formulate troubled pasts, and I am usually disappointed at the unrealistic character thoughts.

    Your book amazes me because I have to remind myself that it is a work of fiction. The way you describe Astrid’s emotions is deep and honest, and the poetic writing is beautiful. I hope to become and author someday, and I will be lucky if I am half as successful as you.

    Thank you for writing this book, I treasure it!
    Shana

  36. Priyanka Says:

    Hi, Janet FItch
    I wanted to say that White Oleander is one of my all time favortie books! I also wanted to know, uder which genre would you classify the book?

  37. Hi Janet,

    I mostly use the library as a political statement – library closures etc – however when I go on holiday with my sister, we choose five books each to share and the rule is, they must be from a charity shop and chosen for title, cover or authors name…

    White Oleander was the first book I chose this year and the second book I read on holiday (I’m still here in Mallorca) and I have just this minute put it down…

    Janet, what a book, what a writer ( at the end of our holiday we pass these books on….not this one…) This book is up there with my all time favourites…’The Grapes of Wrath’ Rape of the Fair Country’
    ‘To Kill a Mocking Bird’ and ‘The Ragged Trousered Philanthropist’

    I have never read such sparkling lyrics, heard such thuds in the dark, felt the fire of so much pain. The profusion of metaphors are wall to wall jewels. As a woman writer, I am both envious and proud of your talent. Thank you for a wonderful book that I will treasure for a long, long time. If I ever make it to LA, I’d like to share a coffee with you.

    Much love and in sisterhood

    Jill Miller

  38. Melania Says:

    My all-time favourite book (gave myself the middle name Astrid after reading it a few years ago). Will never get tired of reading it. ‘Paint it Black’ is a close second.

  39. Hi Janet,

    I’m the guy who wrote to you, about a year ago I guess, raving about the impact White Oleander had on me. I couldn’t believe you replied personally and that meant a lot. It’s strange, isn’t it, how your own life experiences dramatically impact your connection with art? Had I read that book when it was first published, I’ll admit I would probably have dismissed it as chick-lit. But with a little more life behind me, it instead moved me to tears and other intense emotions.

    I’m so excited to have found your blog and see that many others have found just as much insight and truth in your work. I’m eager to read more and from the sounds of it “Paint It Black” might be a good place to start.

    Oh, and I wholeheartedly agree with your essay about Halloween! I’ve had the same experience myself in recent years. In addition to what you said I also blame it on Big Retail’s over-commercialization of the day and on every special interest and fringe group now offering “alternatives” to trick-or-treating that divide and pull kids away from what used to be the main event. Now, by the night of the 31st, my kids have already been dumped with candy almost a dozen times. :(

  40. Marion Campbell Says:

    I cant believe all the stuff I just poured out to you just dissapeared I have a story for you that Iam certian that you ar the one who should help me write it. I can’tgo throughit all again right now, but it involves 7 abusesed children of a respected police offecer and his slighlly (or more) abusive wife. We were terroized thriy=ughout childhood. The interesting parts of thei saga is how these children turned out. My alter ego is named ‘Susan Diamond. She dosent come around so much any more, I had a thriving business which I walked away from as wellas a beautiful ome to be the lover of a member of the upper echelon of the Detroit arabic mafia. Please contact me. 231-564-3232/ I have read your book several time and watched the movie as well. Beautiful. My storyt , with your help, could bring the same reactions from people like us who understand.

    • Dear Marion,
      Thanks for contacting me, and for your kind comments. I’m sorry to disappoint you, but I don’t write memoir, mine or other people’s. I only write stories I make up myself. But you definitely sound like you have an incredible story, lots to write about, and I suggest you give it a try yourself–your passion comes through on the page. Here is one suggestion–don’t get overwhelmed by the amount of material you have. Write one story at a time. One scene at a time.
      all my best wishes,
      Janet Fitch.

  41. Dear Janet,
    I’ve worked for years on writing my first novel, The Memory Box, a psychological suspense. Unsuccessfully, I tried to find an agent who’d help me to find a traditional publisher. I probably would’ve given up had it not been for a few fabulous rejections, two of which were from major publishers. And so I decided to self-publish – there’s no better time to be a writer, right?

    But something stopped me. I didn’t want to publish something mediocre or something that smacked of novice-ness. I knew it was missing something but I didn’t know what. I haven’t been fortunate enough to study writing or literature, thereby making me a do-it-yourself writer. I remember thinking, if only someone could tell me, show me what I’m missing.

    The literary Gods sent me an angel – in the form of White Oleander. After reading it I knew what I was missing and I knew what I needed to do. I learned how to create characters, and pacing and develop scenes and story. How to mix beauty with pain. I tell people that reading White Oleander was my do-it-yourself MFA. Thank you for that Janet. I was never so excited about taking another try at The Memory Box. I dedicate this story “The Books You’re Fated to Read” to you. I wrote it after finding and reading White Oleander. It’s a true story. Eva Lesko Natiello

    http://evanatiello.com/2013/01/25/the-books-youre-fated-to-read/

  42. julielisa Says:

    i was wondering which poets ingrid was influenced by.
    after reading and loving the style of both ingrid and astrids life, i wanted to read on what their, mostly ingrid was influenced by
    she was a poet, read lots of poetry i’d assumed as mentioned,
    what were her influences

  43. Carrie Says:

    Janet, “White Oleander” is the most exquisite book I’ve ever read. The heady prose, the dripping, intoxicating sentences…I uncorked this novel and drank down every word. I echo the previous contributor’s sentiment about this being less of a novel and more like a bible. I felt so deeply inspired by this story–I must have read it at least 20 times. I always read it once a year, and I think to myself that this must be what a muse feels like to a brilliant artist…such is my intense, personal connection to this book. When I discovered a vintage copy of the unabridged audio version (narrated Alyssa Bresnahan,) I paid a small fortune and snatched it up. It was worth EVERY penny to be able to hear your novel–word-for-word–on cross-country road trips. I’ve purchased electronic formats for my Nook and laptop, because I never want to be without access to this book. Sometimes I just *need* it…I need to read those words, to travel with Astrid on her journey, and let the prose refill my well of creativity and beauty when life threatens to suck it dry. When I read “White Oleander,” it feels like I am scooping out a giant handful of jeweled brooches from antique trunk, and letting them fall all around me. I can honestly say that I’ve never had a book affect me as profoundly as yours. Like a lighthouse on a distant, rocky beach in the night, it remains my reference point as I navigate through life. If I could only read one book for the rest of my life, it would be this one. Nothing would make me happier than to have you revisit the lives of these two women, and every year, I pray that one day, my internet search for “White Oleander sequel” will return a kernel of hope. I’ve read every interview with you I could find that talks about this novel, so I know how you feel about a sequel, but please add me to the legion of fans that would give anything for you to reconsider. I really feel like Ingrid and Astrid’s journey has just begun. I want to know where they go…and I want to go with them.

  44. Hi Janet,

    I love this book and as an aspiring novelist, I have spent time typing out word for word some of the chapters and paragraphs trying to understand what it is you do. I especially love you not only capture what it means to be coming into yourself but to be becoming a beautiful woman. The passage where you describe Astrid as being torn between feeling beautiful yet feeling interrupted captures something so essential to femininity. It is the idea that the very thing which makes us so desirable and so enticing is exactly the thing which shrouds our true self because it is based on being seen, not known. It is something powerful yet at the same time, once we invest too much in that power and rely on others to affirm that we are beautiful, it becomes what makes us weak. What an incredible insight to work into such simple scenes.

    Could I ask you about the process you took to write this novel? I feel that my path writing this novel has been extremely circuitous and with all this productivity talk these days, it makes me wonder if I’m doing it “right”. I don’t just want to write a novel with plot, I want to write a novel that means something and captures a truth about life. Sometimes I wonder if being only 25 makes it hard for me to understand people enough to do my characters justice. Just in case, I am a marriage and family therapist in my “day job” and this is something I am doing in my free time.

    • Hi yjiang–
      Thanks for the insightful comments here on beauty and other aspects of the novel. If you look around the site, you’ll see lots of info about how I write, my approach, especially in the interviews. i suspect some of the answers will be there–but not all. Some questions always remain, because there is no Answer, just approaches. At 25 you have a point of view, it will be different from the one you have at 40, but no less valid for that. Good luck with your work! You’re certainly asking the right questions.
      all best,
      Janet

      • Hi Janet, thanks for the reply! I did read some of your interviews and I found your statement about White Oleander really not being an overnight success but a product of 20 years of learning to write very assuring :)

        I would love to see you speak or attend a workshop with you. I live in the CA area. Maybe I am mistaken but it seems like your “Upcoming Events” have not been updated. Do you have somewhere else I can keep track of your appearances? Thanks!

      • When I have events, I will update here. This is a good reminder to keep after it. And I will be at LA Festival of Books this spring! All my best,
        Janet

  45. Roberta Says:

    I just finished White Oleander in a good italian translation. It is always so shocking to me when I get to know about US social system. It seems such an aberration that kids placed in foster families are not supervised in a proper way. I apologize for my poor English and my naive observation of a system I do not know in depth, it’s just that the reading made me emotional. Thank you for this moving novel

  46. Alysha mclean Says:

    My name is Alysha Mclean, my mother sharon Fletcher. I grew up in foster care, n it is so crazy that this book n movie resembles my true life story on so many ways. My mother is in prison for murder, of a lover/ friend. Its like u published my life some big differences, but soo many huge simularities. Where did u get the udea

    • Alysha mclean Says:

      Idea for th is story. Even my friends when movie came out said Alysha thats your story. some of it matches my foster sister jenifer but mostly me n my mother. Even stories about the lady w fanct car n diamonds. That rescued the girl. I wasnt as permiscuise as her. Story her but 75% was word for word it matches my life. Please respond

  47. Glenn Haskell Says:

    Miss Fitch, i just sent a friend request on FB then i found this. My daughter has communicated with you in the past, her name is Sara Cucinotta. You are her favorite author and she has read White Oleander about 10 or 11 times. You may recall her. Anyway to my point, she is graduating in May with a Masters in Social Work of which you were a big insperation and i would like to give her an autographed copy of your book. Obviously i can just buy the book but how can i go about getting you to sign it for her. Please let me know

  48. Id like to share something I wrote years ago. This book has always ment so much to me. Thank you.

    Read

    I pulled out the book today. That one. You know the one, the one you’ve read so many times that the pages are frayed and the spine is cracked and crumbling. I run a finger across those worn leafs, finding a place in the middle and the pages part like an expecting lover, eager for me to take in it’s words. The black and white print stares up at me, those lines I know so well I could recite them by heart, for it is my heart they are printed on now, in black and white, scrawling across my soul, forever burned into me like a scalding brand. The scent hits me like a too familiar perfume, musty and intoxicating. I bring the pages to my nose, inhaling that smell I love so much. It’s like a drug, addicting and powerful. Sometimes I find myself wondering if the author knows how much those little words mean to some people, how much time I spend caressing and adoring the piece of themselves, their creativity, that they have set out into the world. Like releasing something out onto the wind and hoping someone will catch it and cradle it and love it as much as you do.

    So here I go again, turning to page one, curling up on the end of the sofa with a glass of tea and a pack of cigarettes, this wonderful book lay open in my lap, and as I’ve done so many times before I turned my gaze down to the text and drank deep from the bottomless well of artistic brilliance.

    “THE SANTA ANAS blew in hot from the desert, shriveling the last of the spring grass into whiskers of pale straw. Only the oleanders thrived, their delicate poisonous blooms, their dagger green leaves…”

  49. Rachel Says:

    I feel this story is supernatural to me. I am an exact mix between Ingrid and Claire. The circumstances in the book match my current one and the film presented itself two days after the onset of my similar crisis.
    I am finding great stregnth through Ingrid’s character, and hope to return to Astrid’s once the pain subsides.

    I will take comfort as I suffer In silence and reading the book as I go through this journey.

  50. Kim Kay Says:

    I know I’m a bit behind the times but I just finished White Oleander & it was mesmerizing. I couldn’t put it down. Ever considered a sequel? Would make a brilliant trilogy, in fact. Go forward: what happens next, a child of Astrid’s etc. or go backward and show how Ingrid became who she was. Really well done.

  51. jfc1hss Says:

    I’ll be honest and say that I’ve never read the book, but I used to have that film on over and over when I was younger.

    I actually had a very turbulent relationship with my own mother which ended up with me becoming homeless a few years after first seeing this film. My own mother also did things to me that outsiders would struggle to understand or believe (‘do you really blame your mother for Clair’s suicide’?).

    Astrid’s strength really inspired me to survive through it all. I found the character was incredibly relatable and I thought about her a lot.

    As time went on, I got myself out of the situation, into education, and moved on. I now have a family of my own and realised after yet another bad experience with my mother soon my daughter was born that I couldn’t expose her to my mother’s behaviour.

    I hadn’t watched the film in many years up until last night when it dawned on me how big an impact it had had on me. I think that it’s about time that I picked up the book.

    I just wanted to let you know how big of a part your story has been in my life and to thank you for writing it.

    Thanks again, and I wish you all the best in the future. x

  52. Marie Says:

    Forget the film. it misses out on SO MUCH of the story. Get the book and it ought to blow your mind if the movie helped you. Some people have said this is “their Bible”. !

  53. jfc1hss Says:

    Bought it today, thank you. :)

  54. Hi, well I’m using your book for a project and one thing we have to write about is how the events happening in the world effected your book as you wrote it. If you could help me with this I would appreciate it greatly. Thank you.

    • Liz, think: OJ trial. In general, think of celebrity culture and the search for heroes in all the wrong places. In general, think of the fragmentation of society and the lack of a strong social safety net. if you have more questions, email me at oleander@pacbell.net.

  55. Thank you, Face Book, for leading me back to this author who wrote one of the finest books, White Oleander. There is something so honest about a protagonist who is an adolescent.

  56. Hello! I loved this book, I have read it so many times and I have the audio version read by Oprah, I am so sorry it’s not the unabridged version though! I read somewhere that your first draft of the novel was about 200 pages longer and that you had to do a lot of editing, have you ever thought of integrating the missing parts back into the novel? I would be sure to buy it, I can’t get enough of these characters even after years and I have never again come across any like them.
    All the best xx

  57. Marie Says:

    I also would like to read the expanded version, although I did NOT like Black whatever it was, the second novel. Its OK though because Oleander makes up for it. If someone says they don’t like Oleander I feel like slapping them ! It helped me SO much because I am still trying to understand my own mom with whom I had a love/hate relationship with. LOL LOL …

  58. Katie Laskowski Says:

    Dear Ms.Fitch,
    I would just like to thank you for writing this brilliant novel. When I was struggling with hard times I read this book and it completely made me change my view on my own reality. I believe this book is the reason why I’m alive and have the confidence of a standard teen. I have (and continue to) reread White Oleander because they’re still quotes I find especially beautiful and mind-altering, you helped me greatly through my hard times . Thank you for writing your novel and sharing your talent with the world and playing a role in making me the person who I am today.
    Sincerely,
    Katie

  59. […] gives the novel’s protagonist, Astrid, a Penhaligon’s perfume. The author, Janet Fitch, when asked about the exact perfume she had in mind, explained she only remembered it was pink in the bottle. […]

  60. NotMyselfNEMore Says:

    When I’m very sad (which happens more than I’d like to admit), I listen to White Oleander ( unabridged, maybe kind of hard to find now, but worth every cent – altho the Oprah version is well done – its not the same). I keep it in my car, and listen when I need to – it calms me, or even when I don’t need to, – just because it’s lovely.

    I thank you most sincerely, Ms Fitch, for bringing me comfort with your words when I have needed it most. The poetry in your paragraphs is sometimes all I have to cling to, and has kept me afloat many times – if only to remind me to be strong, to survive, ….to swim for the surface – and to keep my decks clean.
    Thank you

  61. Janet> best book ever, and I’m a discriminating reader. I reread it to jumpstart my own writing every morning. I only wish it was available as an audio book so I could listen to it while driving. Every line is poetry. That takes craft and time. I’m so glad you did.

  62. I looked for the audio of ‘White Oleander’ yesterday and no such item appeared. Now I read a few comments up, that it exists. I shall try again.

  63. Miss Fitch,

    I am such a fan of your work and have been for such a long time! White Oleander, although not quite as good as the book, is one of my favorite movies!

    I am also a private coach for High School competitive actors. I bought the White Oleander screenplay because of the multiple talented dramatic actresses I am currently coaching. I knew it would be perfect. However, the 10 minutes I was given for the actors to perform was not enough to do your story justice. But, then my students took the script to their High School coach and found out it was perfect for their High School Drama team and their One-Act competition!

    However, we have encountered a problem. The kids perform in October and they have to have proof of permission and/or royalties to perform for competition. Myself and the HS coach have been having a hard time tying to make all the correct connections in time for their first performace. If we don’t get the permission, the kids can’t perform and they have been working SO hard! It would break their hearts.

    The kids, myself, and the HS coach would love to honor your awesome work. If you could help us in this process, we would so greatly appreciate it!

    I will apologize. This was not my first choice of trying to reach you but time has been running out and we have been getting a lot of “run around” through the “official” channels. I, as I am sure you understand, will do everything I can to make my students happy and successful.

    I hope to hear a reply soon! Thanks again!

    One of your many fans,
    Nicole Allen

  64. Amanda Saper Says:

    Dear Janet,
    I began reading White Oleander when i was sixteen and it changed my life forever. I just turned nineteen today and I am getting a tattoo of a white oleander in honor of your book. To me, this tattoo represents our ability as people to love what is toxic and yet beautiful at the same time. Your book allowed me to have the dream of becoming a foster care parent one day and the depth i see in your writing is something I am glad and proud to be getting as a tattoo. I wish I knew how to explain to people in short why I chose a white oleander as my tattoo, but i cannot simply summarize such things. It would mean the world to me to get a reply from you, and I would love if it was at all ever possible, to hear what the flower the white oleander means to you. Thank you for changing my life with you’re writing, you are truly remarkable.

  65. Amanda Saper Says:

    Here you go!

  66. Have you guys seen the movie? The book is way better but I thought it was pretty interesting
    I just did a blog post on this book
    come read please :)

    http://tryingtosurvivetheterrible20s.blogspot.com/

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