This book has a particlar resonance for me as my daughter and I read it at the same time.
In the young adult novel, White Oleander,
, by Janet Fitch, the mother is neither absent nor particularly moral. In this work, it is the mother who strays off the path. The roles of the mother, Ingrid, and the daughter, Astrid, are fluid and atypical. After Ingrid murders her lover, her resulting prison sentence would seem to perpetuate stereotypes by ensuring her erasure. Instead, Ingrid operates as a powerfully present absence, whose exile moves in a complex and evolving collision course with the exile she has imposed on her daughter.
Even imprisonment does not lessen Ingrid’s power; she reaches into her daughter’s life and causes destruction. But Astrid’s exile transforms her from a rather passive young girl into a strong young woman. In a final confrontation Astrid forces her mother to tell the truth – for once. And, ultimately, Ingrid chooses her daughter’s love, even if it means remaining imprisoned. Her unexpected selflessness does not promote her to the role of noble motherhood, but it does make her less monstrous. Astrid finally knows her mother loves her, but there is no sense their relationship will ever become less complex. Like a memoir, the book ends with a sense of irresolution.