Iíve finished dark, disturbing novels and said, "Iím glad I
read that. It wasnít all happy, but Iím glad I read that." When
I put down this dark, disturbing novel, however, I wished I hadnít read
it. Quite frankly, Iím not sure why Oprah liked it.
Donít get me wrongówhen I put this book down my heart was pounding
and it was the wee hoursóIíd stayed up late to finish it because it
was so compelling. But I genuinely wished I hadnít read it. Itís not
that I try to shield myself from people in tough circumstances, or that I always
demand a happy ending. I had a hard time with this book, though.
In White Oleander, the main character, Astrid, was passionately attached
to her selfish and unbalanced poet mother, who killed her lover an
went to jail, leaving Astrid to be shuffled from foster home to foster home
and scarred in a fresh way by each new and horrible situation. As Astrid learned
to toughen herself to her situations and the fresh pain she found in each one,
I found myself toughening toward the author. I had this odd feeling that the
author didnít want the reader to be able to relate to Astrid entirely and
that she was almost enjoying putting Astrid (and with her, the reader) in all
those terrible situations.
Itís not that I think itís wrong to be hurt by books, but in this
one the author seemed to be dragging me ruthlessly into Astridís broken
world as some sort of punishment or emotional vent. And I found myself not happy
that sheíd dragged me where I didnít want to go. And sorry that I
couldnít reclaim the time.