As I learned in Room, some seriously messed up stuff can and probably will happen when you lock people up in a small, enclosed space for long periods of time. I’m curious to know if any studies have been made on this anomaly because it seems like it might happen more often than you’d think. Like, for example, when kidnappers keep their hostages locked up in basements and shacks for years away from civilization and other people, what happens to them psychologically? Perhaps I’ll have to read Jaycee Dugard and other abductees' memoirs to see how they dealt with everything and what all they had to go through. In this book (and in Room
, which has still left me mentally scarred and shuddering in disgust when anyone even mentions the word “milk”), society’s rules, expectations, and rules of conduct are all blurred for the children of Corrine and Christopher Dollanganger. The four kids were born out of an illicit and forbidden affair. After their father dies, Corrine decides to try to win back the affection and enormous inheritance of her dying father. The catch is that all four children will have to stay hidden away in a small room connected to the attic until their grandfather dies so that he’ll never know that his daughter’s sin came to bear not one but four “Devil’s spawn.” Days turn to weeks to months and years of waiting and the Dollanganger children start to grow up. Cathy is 12 at the beginning of the book and Chris is 14 while the two twins, Cory and Carrie, are 5. Cathy and Chris go through puberty together, with changing bodies and raging hormones and confusing emotions, all alone and with no one to explain it to them. Things get pretty weird, especially since Cathy and Chris have taken it upon themselves to play the roles of mother and father to the twins as their real mother becomes more and more distant.
I usually don’t like horror/thriller novels, but this kept me in suspense the whole time I was reading it. It's not really scary in the traditional "boo!" sense, but it is scary how quickly and entirely Corrine loses all sense of humanity and becomes as evil and obsessed with money as her parents. It kind of reminded me of Misery since the children are entrapped and left under the care of their psycho grandmother whose only thoughts are of how evil and impure her grandkids are. The grandmother was such an evil, pious bitch that she made the perfect antagonist. Then, when Corrine started to change, it was so believable and heart-breaking that you can’t help but care about those poor kids and whether they’ll ever make it out of the attic alive. The writing itself isn’t amazing at all, but the story is definitely worth reading. It reads kind of like a teenage girl’s diary (it’s narrated by Cathy), with an explosion of exclamation points and laments about the unfairness of life (and a lot of “golly-lolly”s and “golly-gee-day!”s). But soon she starts to grow up, and as she matures so does her writing and her voice. It was interesting to see how they grew and coped with their situation and it was nice to see how books were used as a precious escape. I'm curious to know what happens next to the kids so I guess I'll have to check out Petals on the Wind. Hopefully the mother gets her comeuppance somehow - some revenge by Cathy's hand would be nice. 3.5 stars