‘You were my home mother, I had no home but you.’ – Jane Fitch : White Oleander
The book was painfully hard to read equally hard to review for obvious reasons. My C-PTSD was at its peak the whole time while reading and reviewing. It’s the first time I’ve reviewed a book four months after I read it. At one time I wanted to give up. I mean I could, it’s not like I’m getting paid to write this review but somehow I continued with it at my own pace and I’m glad I completed it. The book is affecting but overwrought.
Twelve-year-old Astrid is being raised by her single mother Ingrid, a self-centred imperious and a narcissistic woman. Ingrid’s only parental skill is to mould her daughter Astrid into the person she needs her to be for herself. She toys with men like a cat with a mouse and advises her daughter to do so too. At one time she leaves her daughter outside her boyfriend’s house in a car so she can have sex with him. She is constantly using her daughter for emotional support when things go bad. She has trained her daughter to react to her every display of emotion and tend to her needs and feelings.
Astrid is not encouraged to be her own person. She is quiet, wise beyond her years, with always just a hint of intimidation mixed with adoration for her mother. The typical plight and development of a child growing up in a toxic environment. A child that grows up with an all consuming parent has no concept of self, of identity, their preferences, desires and dislike. They are mentally and emotionally raped into catering to the toxic parents every whim.
Astrid’s life changes drastically when her mother kills her ex boyfriend, earning herself a life in prison and sentencing her daughter to years of hopping from foster home to foster home. Astrid must learn how to survive in this new environment according to the laws set in each home. She latches on to a few people who bother to care about her, but with heartbreak and physical trauma she learns to become increasingly independent. Her mother keeps a constant presence in her life through letters. Throughout all this Astrid tries to figure out who she is and where she came from.
The only problem I found in this book is that the author attempts to pen an ending that will please all and we as readers are forced to swallow the idea that this abuse did not permanently harm Astrid, but only strengthened her. This is an incredibly optimistic view of things.
To conclude this dark novel reads like poetry, it’s beautifully crafted in-spite of its disappointing ending.