Before I get started, man, is this a dense book. So. Much. Happens. in just a few paragraphs. These kids get more done in a page than Ruby gets done in whole chapters. Description upon description, it is imagery central up in here. So. Let’s get on with that then.
First up, we get a nice overview of the bedroom itself: 16×16, with lots and lots of dark furntiure that makes it seem smaller, cream wallpaper, gold satin bedspreads, it’s basically a room in an old hotel. With the walls covered in paintings of Hell. Christopher declares these Goya’s work, which impresses Cathy, even though *I* think they sound more like Bosch to me.
Thanks, friend. Carrie starts shouting that she doesn’t like it and we get a little bit into the twins’ characters. Carrie is the nosy one, the opinionated loudmouth (oh how things will change for our Carrie) and Cory is the quiet one. When I first read this book, I thought Carrie was just the worst brat. This is not to say that she isn’t a brat, because she can be, just that re-reading this with the knowledge of the next book (which SPOILER is Carrie’s last) behind me makes me laugh a little more at her interjections. She demands to know why they’re not leaving since she doesn’t like it and where is the sun and what the hey is happening, and Cathy is saved from answering by the entrance of Olivia. And now rules central begins and I will tell y’all right now that I am paraphrasing like hell. I just can’t type all of it out. I can’t. There is a speech of rules about cleanliness and food and modesty, then there’s a list of rules on paper that they’re supposed to memorize, and then more speeches about when and where they can be and make noise and I just can’t. Suffice it to say that the list on paper boils down to DON’T EVEN THINK ABOUT COMMITTING INCEST YOU INCESTUALLY-MINDED KIDS. Oh and your grandfather and I will never, ever love you. Now settle into your bacon and eggs.
So they eat breakfast and Chris & Carrie try their best to project happiness so that the twins don’t pick up on the real wtf-ness of their situation, and then they decide to go up to the attic. And it’s amazing. It’s that attic that everyone dreams about having or finding, really. It’s huge and has windows and real floors (not just beams and pink stuff) and chests and wardrobes full of old clothes and books and pianos and a little schoolroom. Chris is trying to find the bright side, but the twins are getting restless and screechy and Cathy is screaming at bugs, so he clambers up to the rafters to hang a couple of swings for the twins and he and Cathy convince them to pretend that they’re outside. Ugh that’s so sad. Later they go down to the room for lunch and Chris talks to Cathy while she’s taking a bath (nope) and they discuss all of the wonderful things they’re going to do once they’re rich. Guys, this is exactly the wrong foot to start off on. I *just* said in the comments that Olivia fulfilled her own prophecy by locking y’all up and now you go and do this. More hours tick by and it’s clear that this is not going to go well. Everyone’s bored and restless and cranky and it’s all just building to a head when the door opens and Corrine and Olivia walk in. The older kids can tell immediately that something’s up with their Momma, but the twins start freaking out, begging to be let outside and calling Chris and Cathy mean. Olivia demands that Corrine shut Carrie up, so lil’ miss Carrie walks right up to her grandmother and lets out a killer scream. Now, I don’t want to overuse screencaps here, since I want to do a movie recap on its own, but look at this face. Carrie don’t give a fuck.
And then Olivia picks Carrie up by her hair and Cory rushes to his sister’s aid and bites Olivia’s leg, making her drop Carrie, who rushes over to scream in a corner while Olivia slaps Cory across the face. Corrine and Cathy and Chris are just sort of standing around stunned, and Cathy recollects that only Chris the Elder could ever stop these kids once they got started, but Olivia threatens to whip them and that gets them to be quiet since that’s a pretty terrible threat to give to five-year olds. Corrine gathers her kids up and Olivia tells her again that she’s worthless and her kids are evil and blah blah blah will you get OUT you creepy old lady. But before she’ll leave, Olivia makes Corrine take her shirt off, revealing that she has in fact been whipped. 48 times, to be exact–33 for the years of her life, and 15 for the years she spent with Chris the Elder “living in sin”. This is what really sets our Cathy off. If you’ve read the rest of the series, or at least Petals, then you know that Cathy is no stranger to the concept of revenge, and it all starts here. Olivia seems to realize this, as she threatens the children again, but directs her gaze at Cathy. I’d watch it, Liv, I know what’s coming to you.
Olivia leaves and Corrine gathers her children around her to tell them (and us) her backstory. There are certain..shall we say…variations that we get in the eventual prequel, but for now let’s stick to what we’ve got here:
Corrine was raised in this house with her two older brothers, Malcolm (Mal) and Joel. (She doesn’t name them, but I am because I am in charge here) The three of them had a pretty miserable childhood, with religion forced on them and the usual restrictions against swimming and dancing and playing cards and joy. This is, we shall learn, a really really really common VCA backstory. One day, a handsome young man showed up at the house, Chris the Elder. His mother, Alicia, was the second wife of Corrine’s grandfather Garland. After Garland’s death, Corrine’s father Malcolm had stolen Alicia and Chris’s inheritances and kicked them out; now Alicia had died and Chris was looking to connect to his family. So, Corrine explains, while Chris the Elder was technically her half-uncle, he was only three years older than her and they’d never met, so it was love at first sight. Corrine declines to spell everything out for her kids (much to Chris and Cathy’s relief) but suffice it to say that they had a secret romance and when Corrine was 18, they eloped. When they told Malcolm and Olivia they freaked out (and I’m sorry, rightly so, girl he is your UNCLE) and they were both disinherited and kicked out and changed their names and here we are. Cathy, I should mention, is utterly charmed by this story, seeing it as like a ballet, all romance and forbidden passions and whatnot. Cathy, you weirdo.
Corrine tells her oldest kids again that she’s going to do everything possible to win back her father’s love and get back into his will (noble) and then they’ll all have everything they ever wanted. She assures them that they’re amazing wonderful kids and that there’s no such thing as inherited sin or being born bad or anything else that Olivia might want them to believe. Corrine, still, you married your uncle. This is Heaven Casteel’s favorite book. They all reiterate how much they love each other and Chris & Cathy assure their mom in return that they love her and forgive her for never telling them the truth, and Corrine puts on her brave face and announces that she’s going into the big city the next day to start typing classes so that she can get a job. Chris is super happy and supportive, but Cathy just keeps remembering how Corrine had previously mentioned that she wasn’t the world’s biggest self-starter without Chris the Elder to support her. Ah, here we go. Cathy’s mind starts ticking in these chapters and does not stop. I know we all know that Cathy makes some poooooooooooooooooooor decisions in the future, but lord I love that she tries to do anything at all, RUBY.
Corrine leaves and the kids go to bed, where Chris and Cathy make some small talk about how at least now they know why they all look so much alike. Ew. Chris is still firmly on the side of “Everything Momma says is true and awesome” while Cathy is still hella suspicious about everything. Stick to that, baby. You’ll need it.
Coming up: More long boring days in the attic, Corrine starts wearing a lot of jewelry, Cathy starts practicing her dancing up in the attic and Chris starts to creep, and the twins start down the road to sickness. And that’s only barely halfway! THIS DENSE ASS BOOK.
PS: This is also my Book Club’s latest pick, so if we have our next meeting before my next recap I’ll be sure to write down any choice commentary by my fellow Book Clubbers. We like to think we’re pretty hilarious.