Alright, Bleaky McDownerson. WHAT am I going to say about you? Is it my fault that you bummed me out so much? Maybe! If I hadn’t read you on the first unrelentingly rainy day of September, while I was counting down the days to my surgery and had no exciting snacks in the offing, maybe we would have gotten on better. But how was I to know that NOTHING would go right for ANYONE, EVER!?
And I know, I have hithertofore claimed to love a depressing book, but I mean one where there is light-heartedness and laughter and then also the DEEPEST OF SADNESS, which is often brought on by how much LOVE I feel for those are deeply saddened, a love which is fostered in the light-hearted and laughy times and do you see what element you are missing here, Gloomy McNo-Hope?
That’s right, the good times. Because there are about EIGHT SECONDS of good times when Astrid is young and living with her beautiful, moody Poet-Mother, but those good times are laced with apprehensions. And then when the Poet-Mother kills her jilting lover and is sent to jail, and Astrid is shuffled off to a foster home it seems for about two pages like it might be ok.
But then Astrid starts sleeping with her foster-mom’s boyfriend and OF COURSE this is not going to end well, and then she goes to another foster home where the woman doesn’t feed them, and then she goes to another foster home where the husband is absent and the wife is sweet and again, eight seconds of good times. BUT THE HUSBAND IS ABSENT, and the wife is less ‘sweet’ and more ‘co-dependent and suicidal’ and then she washes down a bottle of sleeping pills with some sherry.
I KNOW! Just when you think it can’t get any worse. There is, I think, one more foster home after this and then this avant garde ending where Astrid and her artiste-boyfriend end up living in a broken, heatless flat in Germany and finding wholeness in their brokenness, together. So, fine. Happy ending.
But that does not make up for how dour everything else was, nor does it make up for the fact that the Poet-Mother speaks (and later writes) in sort of free-verse haikuspeak. You know the kind. ‘someone whose fingers are a poem, the single, quivering drop of dew,’ that sort of thing. Which, fine, she’s a Poet-Mother, but then that way of speaking creeps over into Our Narrator, and I begin to suspect that this is just Fitch’s MO. It does not, how you say, turn my crank.
Oprah! You have let me down! And after I said all those nice things about your opinion-people! And probably I think White Oleander would appeal to many people, possibly even Future-Me, but the unmitigated misfortune turned me off for now.