"The Santa Ana's blew in hot from the desert, shriveling the last of the spring grass into whiskers of pale straw. Only the oleanders thrived, their delicate poisonous blooms, their dagger green leaves. We could not sleep in the hot dry nights, my mother and I. I woke up at midnight to find her bed empty. I climbed to the roof and easily spotted her blond hair like a white flame in the light of the three-quarter moon."
As the story opens she is a twelve year old, already wise beyond her years as she parents her free spirit, poet mother, Ingrid. The two had already drifted from California, where Astrid was born, through Mexico to Europe and back to California. The main setting is Los Angeles, California. Astrid wants a more conventional life. Ingrid completely loses control and murders a former boyfriend and is sentenced to life in prison. Soon Astrid finds herself in the foster care system, going from one horrific situation to another Through it all Ingrid manages to continue to manipulate Astrid even from behind bars, not willing to see Astrid find any sort of safe haven for herself, even to the point of not allowing Astrid or the state to locate Astrid's long absent father. How Astrid manages to triumph in the face of such overwhelming odds makes for compelling reading, It reminds me of “A Tree Grows In Brooklyn.”