An excerpt from White Oleander, Janet Fitch

White Oleander coverJanet Fitch’s White Oleander is one of my favorite books: my copy is old, with yellowed pages and wrinkles on the spine. The plastic I’ve wrapped it in is wrinkled too, slightly warped from the heat.

The prose is just beautiful. These are the full paragraphs from a random page.

“Rabbit,” he said, pointing down at the dust.

I could barely make out the blurred markings, two larger prints followed by a smaller one and then another. He smiled, his teeth slightly pushed back, vaguely rabbit-like himself. He was a boy who should have been in front of a TV or in a library, but he could read the pale dust the way another kid would read a comic book, the way my mother read cards. I wished he could read my fortune in the dust.

“You see a lot,” I said.

He smiled. He was a boy who wanted to be seen. He told me his name was Davey, he was Starr’s real son. There was a daughter too, Carolee. The other two, Owen and Peter, were foster like me. But even her natural children had been in foster care, when Starr was in rehab.

How many children had this happened to? How many children were like me, floating like plankton in the wide ocean? I thought how tenuous the links were between mother and children, between friends, family, things you think are eternal. Everything could be lost, more easily than anyone could imagine.

We walked on. Davey pulled at a bush with bright yellow flowers. “Deerweed. Pea family.” The breeze came up the canyon, making the trees flicker green and gray. “Paloverde’s got the green bark. The other’s ironwood.”

The quiet, the solidness of the mountain, the while butterflies. Green scent of laurel sumac, which Davey informed me the local Indians had used to sweeten the air in their wickiups. Clumps of giant ryegrass, still green, but already crackling like fire. Two hawks circled the seamless blue sky, screaming.

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