Fitch’s White Oleander

“I was thirsty for the way she felt, the way she looked, the sound of her voice, the way her front teeth were square but her second teeth turned slightly, her one dimple, left side, her half-smile, her wonderful blue eyes flecked with white, like new galaxies, the firm intact planes of her face.”

These are the details you know about a face you love. In this sentence from Janet Fitch’s White Oleander, the daughter is visiting her mother after she has spent months in prison. Fitch captures the intensity with specifics so we feel how the young girl missed her mother, adding “she didn’t smell of violets anymore, only the smell of detergent on denim.” Near the beginning of the book, the daughter sees “new galaxies” in her mother’s eyes but those endless possibilities don’t pan out and that face she loves disappoints. I think it’s minutia which sears images and characters in our minds and allows a book to soar above the ordinary. What books stay with you because the story was rich in detail?

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