Monday, March 16, 2015

Flowers in the Attic: An O.H.M. Book Review

For O.H.M.’s debut book review, I've chosen the single biggest hot mess of a mass market paperback ever penned in the English language: Flowers in the Attic, by V.C. Andrews.

Everyone has a book or two that makes a big impression on their youth. I wish I could say mine was Harriet the Spy or Ramona Quimby, Age 8. But I can’t. Because although I certainly enjoyed those books, they simply did not hit home with quite the same force as Flowers in the Attic.

I remember finding this book at a babysitter’s house at about age 10. The second I opened it, I knew it was totally inappropriate, and therefore completely necessary for me to read as quickly as possible before some meddling, well-meaning adult tried to stop me. 

Well, this delicious piece of pseudo-Southern-Goth trash turned out to be an absolute joy, and you can quote me on that. 

The book centers on the Dollaganger family, all tow-headed, beautiful looking specimens of Aryan humanity. But wait! There’s a twist to come (spoiler alert: everyone in the family is engaged in incest). Here's what happens.

Christopher and Corrine Dollanganger live happily together in 1950's Pennsylvania with their kids, a son named Chris (14); a daughter named Cathy (12); and twins Carrie and Corrie (4). Why they are all named names that sound alike and start with C, I can't tell you. I can only hazard a guess that it's just to confuse readers and be annoying. 

One day, a cop shows up on the family's doorstep and whoops, Christopher flew home to be with the angels in a car accident on his birthday while returning from his job as V.P. of sales somewhere. Now the whole family has a serious case of the sads, not to mention they are destitute. Corrinne is shit out of luck because she's got no job. So she takes her four kids to her rich parents’ mansion in Virginia, which has its own name: "Foxworth Hall."

Heretofore, the kids had no idea they had any living relatives. When they find out they do, the first person they encounter is Corrinne’s psychotic, wrinkly old 100% collagen-free hag of a mom, Olivia. Olivia shoves all four kids into the mansion’s attic (hence the title), because as we later discover, Corrine’s dad Malcolm can’t find out the kids exist. Why? Because Christopher was secretly Corrinne’s half-uncle and got disinherited for eloping like she was an extra on the set of Deliverance.

Oh no she DIDN'T!!!

Corrinne and Olivia keep trying to convince the kids that their new home with the mice, mothballs, and old tuxedos is only a temporary arrangement, just until Malcolm comes around. But then Corrinne changes her tune and says no, actually you need to wait until Malcolm dies, and then we’ll all have his money and live happily ever after like it was Cinderella. 

Meanwhile, Corrinne is secretly a huge skank who should be reported to children's services immediately, because she is actually sort of OK with her kids being stuck in an attic while she bones her dad’s lawyer and starts to enjoy being a baller with her family's money again.

Don't stop reading now, because here's where shit starts to get real.

The four kids turn into little mole people in the attic, rarely visited by their mother and fed arsenic donuts by their psychotic witch of a grandmother, who also whips them with a belt every now and then. Basically after a year of living this way, all four kids look like they got eaten by a wolf and shat over a cliff. The twins start to wither away to dust and the two older kids get boobs and hair in funny places and have to act like the twins’ parents. Well, I don’t need to tell you what happens next. Except I do, because it is a legitimate stack of fuckery and a whole bunch of nope!

Chris secretly MacGyver's a copy of the key to Corrinne's room out of soap and wood, which they use to steal money and jewelry to plot their escape from the attic. On one of these missions impossible, Cathy (for reasons unknown) decides to make out with her mom’s lawyer boyfriend in his sleep, and Chris gets jealous. Cathy tells Chris it didn't mean anything, and n
ot to put too fine a point on it, she comforts Chris with her vajazzle, and bro and sis then GET IT THE EFF ON!  Then Chris is all like, let’s move to Florida, you’re the only one for me even though YOU MAH SISTAH!!

Eventually Cory (the boy twin) succumbs to the effects of neglect and arsenic croissants and keels over dead from pneumonia. Cathy and Chris—now in a full-on incestuous relationship—decide to take all the valuables they have pilfered and hop a train to Palm Beach. 

They escape out a window (begging the question why they didn't do this like a year ago, before the arsenic pastries and incest) and a benevolent groundskeeper de-electrifies the electric fence surrounding the property (!) and lets them run away. Chris then assures Cathy that they and the remaining girl twin Carrie will live happily ever after. Because obviously, living for years in an attic, watching your brother die of arsenic poisoning/pneumonia, and having sex with your sister is totally consistent with a balanced and stable future. Chris was a lot of things, but a budding psychoanalyst he clearly was not.

The second I finished this book, I had to read all of the other books in the series, some of which may or may not be the subject of a future O.H.M. book review.

Do yourself a favor: Go buy or download Flowers in the Attic today!

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