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White Oleander: Reviewed

Author:Janet Fitch
Reading Level (Conceptual):For grown-ups
Reading Level (Vocabulary):For grown-ups
Year of publication:1999

"What did Cinderella's mother die of?," my daughter asked me, when she was 4. I myself had never troubled to think about this. But I came to realize that, in stories for children, from fairy tales to adventures to Walt Disney musicals, the mothers' presence is usually notable for its absence. Their deaths are required so that plots can unfold.

And yet, I have recently come across a few novels that consider thoughtfully the role(s) a mother may play in her daughter's future. In the two grimmest, White Oleander and The Book of Ruth, the power of the mothers to destroy their daughters despite great distance, time, and, in the case of White Oleander, despite tall prison walls, is absolute. The sorrows of mothers, say Janet Fitch and Jane Hamilton, are visited on their daughters.


This book is more fully reviewed in our discussion of some books about the relationships between moms and their daughters.

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