White Oleander White Oleander is the story of a young girl who experiences loss, misfortune, and healing when her mother is convicted of murder and send to prison for life.
Astrid, a young girl lives with her artist mother, Ingrid Magnussen. Astrid is an artist like her mother who enjoys going to poetry readings, art openings and spending time with her mother. Astrid adores her mother and cherishes their private life.
Ingrid, is Astrid's mother. She is a poet and an artist, who works at the magazine, "Cinema Scope" to make ends meet. Using her luminous beauty she manipulates men.
Ingrid and Astrid live in Hollywood, California. They live in an apartment overlooking the famous Hollywood sign, in the 90's.
When Ingrid is rejected by her lover, she murders him with a poison of white oleander, jimson root, and DMSO. After that Astrid is bounced from foster home to foster home.
Astrid's first foster home is with Star Thomas and Ray. StarThomas was once a prostitute, and Ray is a carpenter. There Astrid receives her first pair of high heels, an introduction to religion, and a bullet wound to her shoulder. She also gets involved romantically with Star's boyfriend Ray.
Astrid's second foster home is with Marvel and Ed Turlock. Astrid considers them her first real family. Ed works at the local Home Depot, and Marvel sells Mary Kay cosmetics. There Astrid learns what her jobs are: babysitter, pot scrubber, laundry maid, and beautician. There she penetrates the mystery of the American family. When she is mauled by a dog things start to unravel. Marvel claims that Astrid is running around and doing drugs, Astrid then goes to her third foster home, with Amelia Ramos.
Amelia Ramos is Astrid's third foster mother. She is an interior decorator, who once lived in Argentina. When Astrid first arrives everything seems hunky-dory until she learns that they only get fed dinner. There she learns to stand up for herself, and beat on the bars until she gets what she needs. Astrid continuously calls child services to ask for replacement, then finally gets it when she receives a new social worker.
Her next home is with Claire and Ron Richards. Claire is an actress, and Ron produces a television show about paranormal events. Astrid and Claire do everything together. They go to the dry cleaners, the bank, and movies. They tell each other about their lives. Astrid starts school at Fairfax High, and starts taking classes at the local art museum. It finely seems that Astrid's life is coming together. Claire believes that Ron is having an affair, when Claire meets Ingrid it only fuels the fire. Claire commits suicide, and Astrid goes to yet another foster home. Claire showed Astrid that someone can have faith in her.
This time Astrid is placed in a children's center. Astrid is jumped and is beat up frequently Eventually Astrid meets Paul Trout, a fellow artist and friend, he turns 18 and goes to New York She also chops her hair off trying to look ugly. One day Astrid is interviewed for placementand she she picks a woman by the name Rena Grushenka.
Rena is a merchant at a local flea market. she is an immigrant from Russia, who only smokes Russian Sobranies, because they are best in the world. Rena runs a foster home similar to Amelia. She takes multiple girls. Every Thursday the girls go through the rich neighborhood's garbage. Susan Valerias is Ingrid's new attorney. She comes and asks Astrid to testify for Ingrid's new trial. Astrid says she will if Ingrid will tell her about her past. Ingrid tells her, about her father, Klaus Anders, Annie, the woman that Ingrid left Astrid with for a year. Part of the deal was for Astrid to testify, but Ingrid says to Astrid, that she will tell Susan to leave here alone. during her stay with Rena Astrid made friends with Nikki and Yvonne. The girls teach Astrid to laugh and they give her the real mother, the blood mother, that wasn't behind wire. Rena stole her pride but taught her how to salvage, and glean from the wreckage. when Astrid turned 18 she went to New York to look for PaulTrout.
When they found each other they moved to Berlin. There Astrid meets her father, finds out that her mother was released, and makes Musee de Astrid Magnussen. a collection of suitcases filled with things: money, jewels, 27 names for tears, pictures, sand, among otheer things. This is the climax of the book Astrid learns that each foster home she went to was for an utimate good, the challenges she faced made her who she is today.