the book heart: no. 7 (white oleander)

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Niki and Yvonne had pierced my ears one day when they were bored. I let them do it It pleased them to shape me. I’d learned, whatever you hung from my earlobes or put on my back, I was insoluble, like sand in water. Stir me up, I always came to rest on the bottom.

I think White Oleander, by Janet Fitch, was the first book I ever read that grabbed me with the beauty of it’s writing. My sophomore year of high school I re-read it, putting a hot pink sticky note on every page that had some sentence, fragment, description I wanted to remember. By the end the whole book was covered and every re-reading since has been spent unsticking sticky notes and trying to remember why I put them there. What I wanted to remember.

It’s about a mother and a daughter, two women wrapped around each other, always. It’s a coming of age story—discovering yourself in the harshest way possible. It’s dark and gritty and at times, depressing. It’s about all the different ways to see the world, to see beauty. All the ways to ignore beauty. All the ways to be a human, to survive.

My copy is wrinkled and aged. A smoothie was spilled on it, once, and it has been used over and over as a surface to paint my nails on. Half the cover is ripped off. Re-reading it this week, I felt like I was opening up a time capsule. It’s funny how books define certain periods of our lives. I must have only been 14 when I read this book for the first time. It strikes a different cord now.

I also have to say that it has one of the best endings. Not in the plot sense. Not in the way things in the book ended. But in the way that it sat with me. In the way it was written. It’s like somehow I get to the last page, and instead of holding it in my hands, the book sits on my stomach.

(The book heart is a place books go when they move you. It’s a place for you to keep all of those books, all of those plots and stories and all of those little moments. This is a series chronicling the books that have become a part of me. I hope you'll enjoy, and that maybe these books can become a part of you as well.) 

1 comment :

  1. One of my top 5 favorite books! I think the very first time I read this book I was roughly 15 or 16 years old, and I can still remember sitting in study hall and absorbing every word. The way this book affected me( and all great books for that matter) I think I can sum up with my favorite quote from the book itself, "Always learn poems by heart," she said. "They have to become the marrow in your bones. Like fluoride in the water, they'll make your soul impervious to the world's soft decay."


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