Of all the folks in the mountain shacks, the Casteels were the lowest — the scum of the hills.
Heaven Leigh Casteel was the prettiest, smartest girl in the backwoods, despite her ragged clothes and dirty face…despite a father meaner than ten vipers…despite her weary stepmother, who worked her like a mule. For her brother Tom and the little ones, Heaven clung to her pride and her hopes. Someday they’d get away and show the world that they were decent, fine and talented — worthy of love and respect.
Then Heaven’s stepmother ran off, and her wicked, greedy father had a scheme — a vicious scheme that threatened to destroy the precious dream of Heaven and the children forever!
Welcome back for part two of our recap of Heaven by V.C. Andrews! As I mentioned in part one, I spent most of my teens obsessed with V.C. Andrews books and as a grown up I still think they’re some of the best trash I’ve ever had the pleasure of losing myself in. Landry’s and Dollangangers and Logans and Cutlers! But especially Casteels.
For “research” I asked my mom if she ever had any clue what I was reading. She replied that she didn’t know exactly but figured I was using my judgement and that if I was reading it was better than doing something else (she has a point). She also has never read ANY V.C. and had zero clue how banana cakes the stories I was devouring were; but she wouldn’t have stopped me either way.
When we left our Heroine she was being sold off by her daddy who needed to get some cash and to get rid of his five kids, after his wife finally got fed up with his whore’ing and diseases and left him cold. Heaven’s Pa has never liked her, and yet he has brought two couples to see about buying Heaven and has given her the choice of who will be buying her. One of the couples is older, quiet, and obviously well off in a non-flashy sort of way. The other couple is younger, with a handsome man and a glamorous redheaded woman:
Six feet, or very near it, she had to be, even without those high heels. Her hair was a huge mass of auburn red …. hair teased to such exagerated fullness it seemed quite solid. Her eyes were a strange pale color… A pretty face?
Yes. Very pretty.
She had the look of the hill people…
Heaven doesn’t have much experience with making smart decisions, and she is also easily swayed by glamour. So she picks Ms. Hill People USA and her trophy husband. Heaven is barely in the car and away from her shack before Kitty spills that she knows Heaven’s daddy. She knows him and she hates him. She also hated Heaven’s mom, because when Luke knocked up Kitty he left her for Angel, and Kitty gave herself a home abortion that resulted in her being unable to have any more kids. So, now she’s bought the daughter of Luke’s precious Angel to be her very own daughter. It’s a long drive from hill scum land to Heaven’s new home in Atlanta. Kitty talks a bunch about how awful hill people are, and how glad she is that she escaped and is fancy now with her own hair salon that caters to rich folk and visiting celebrities. They stop for Heaven’s first ever McDonald’s hamburger (Kitty gets real pumped about fast food), and Kitty tries to rename the fourteen year old she’s just paid $500 to own.
“Always wanted a girl I could call Linda. Always wanted t’be named Linda myself. There’s something sweet an pure about Linda that sounds so right.”
LINDA, the sweetest loveliest name of all! Luckily Cal cockblocks this and tells Kitty you can’t just give a teenager a new name to suit your whims. Heaven nods off in the car, she’s had a super exhausting day being sold and shipped off to a new place, and wakes up to Cal telling Kitty to stop trying to give him a handy in the front seat.
What was Kitty doing? I rubbed at my eyes, then leaned forward to find out. Just in time to see Cal pull up his fly zipper. Oh- was that nice? Fanny would think so.
Its a very V.C. thing to make one of the side characters a promiscuous tramp and then let the main character slut shame her about it; Fanny’s no treat but at least she’s not a pious princess.
Kitty and Cal finally pull up to their very nice, very clean, very white (walls, carpet, furniture) house at eleven pm. Heaven is so tired that she’s swaying on her feet, but Kitty isn’t letting her sleep on or sit on or touch anything until Heaven’s been cleaned of all her hill filth.
“Wash that dirty, buggy hair. Kill t’lice yer bound t’have. Kill all t’nasty germs. That pa of yers has got t’have everythin, an ya’ve been wallowing in his filth since t’d ya were conceived. Why t’tales they tell about Luke Casteel in Winnerow would curl hair better than perms…”
“Hot water is what ya have’ta sit in. Gotta scrub ya with a brush, put sulfur an tar soap on that hair of yers t’kill those nits ya must have.”
Despite Heaven’s protests that she really isn’t THAT dirty, Kitty forces her bodily into a steaming hot tub filled with lye and scrubs the skin right off of her while Heaven cries and screams in pain. Only when Heaven is lobster red and sobbing in exhaustion does Kitty decide she’s clean enough and that she can go to bed. In Kitty’s bed. Right between Kitty and Cal. Kitty explains that all hill girls are wild creatures and she can never leave Heaven alone while she’s lying down. Grown up Emily presumes Kitty is trying to keep Heaven from touching her naughty place. Cal is all WHUT?! But Kitty gets her way and poor exhausted skinless Heaven has to spend her first night in a new place sleeping between her new “parents.”
After her car time near hand job discovery, Heaven really shouldn’t be surprised when she wakes up to Cal arguing with Kitty because she’s put on a flimsy negligee (slutty ladies in V.C. books ALWAYS have a diverse collection of tiny nighties) and Cal is standing by the bed with “a huge bulge in the crotch that made me hastily close my eyes again.” She just lies there and quietly sobs herself to sleep wondering what kind of home she’s ended up in.
Spoiler Alert: Not a good one! Kitty expects Heaven to be her maid. She needs to clean the sparkling all white house from top to bottom every day. She needs to go to school and not make friends or be slutty with boys. She has to wear too-big ugly clothes and stupid saddle shoes that she hates. Kitty expects her new baby hill trash to earn her keep and to be grateful. Heaven is mostly home alone with Cal, Kitty works late and arrives home exhausted and grumpy, shoveling in whatever food Heaven has made her and then going to bed. Cal is so young, and handsome, and virile, and loves taking Heaven around town on their secret Saturday excursions. Anyone who’s read any previous V.C. knows where this is going to end up right?
Kitty runs hot and cold with her treatment of Heaven. She’s mostly a terrifying psychopath whose every mood must be monitored to avoid drama and increasingly violent punishments. But every once in awhile she decides she feels motherly and tries to give Heaven some coddling and life advice. Really great life advice, like this advice about men:
“They’re all t’same, ya know, even t’sweet-talkin ones. Like Cal. All want one thing, an bein a hill girl, ya know what it is. All is dyin t’slam their bangers inta yer whammer, an afta they done it, if ya start a baby, they won’t want it…
Let us take a moment to really appreciate the turn of phrase “bangers into yer whammer;” and Kitty’s hill-patois in general.
Heaven decides that she wants to do something nice for Kitty, maybe in a last ditch effort to win her love? Maybe because she’s a GD martyr? The world may never know. She decides to plan a big party for Kitty’s birthday (even though Kitty is Fah-Reaking out about getting old) and invite all her friends and coworkers.
The day of the big party comes and Heaven is all busy cooking and cleaning, and making the house festive for Kitty. She’s hung balloons and streamers, she’s wearing a dress that actually fits for once (which Cal bought for her in secret), and she lies down on her bed to take a rest before the guests arrive. But FIRST she gets out her secret doll, the one that looks just like her real mom. Then Heaven cuddles down and falls asleep as a thunderstorms a’brewing outside. Heaven wakes up to Kitty looming over her, all rage and big hair and crazy eyes. Kitty is enraged that Heaven is sleeping fully dressed on her side hugging something. Because, guys, hill trash girls only lay like that when they are checking for squirrels. Only this time when Kitty starts yelling at her, Heaven has had ENOUGH and starts yelling back. Because as she puts it:
“You can’t buffalo me anymore. I’m not afraid of you now. I’m older, bigger, stronger – and tougher.”
“I’m not weak from lack of nourishing strength.”
All the teenage girl dialog in V.C. books is Super believable.
Heaven may have even bested Kitty and escaped without a loving dose of parental punching, but Kitty notices the Angel doll. And remember that Kitty HATED Angel with all the fire. She goes nuts and they have a big fight over how Heaven won’t be Kitty’s slave anymore. How Kitty is driving her trophy husband away by being a kookaburra. There’s a lot of screaming and lightning flashing outside (and somehow no interruptions by guests for this big ole party), and finally Kitty pulls the trump card to shut Heaven up and make her burn her Angel doll. If Heaven doesn’t stop rebelling against Kitty’s rule, Kitty will never ever tell her where her little brother and sister are. Kitty insists that she knows where Keith and Our Jane’s parents/buyers live and that if Heaven throws her mom’s doll onto the fire and keeps being a good little cinder-ella she’ll tell her one day. So, Heaven lets the only piece of her mom that she has burn up in flames, Kitty punches her in the face until she passes out, and Heaven totally misses the awesome party she planned.
Our next chapter is entitled My Savior, My Father. Its focusing on Cal comforting Heaven – the 16 year old girl he’s supposed to be parenting – after her cruel beating by the psycho hose beast he’s married to. Let’s just have the pedo V.C. quotes speak for themselves on this one:
Did he think his small kisses could ease the pain? Yet they did, a little. “Does it hurt that much?” he asked with pity in his voice. He looked so sad so loving.
His fingertips on my swollen eye were so tender. “You look so beautiful lying here in my arms, with the moonlight on your face. you seem half a child, half a woman, older than sixteen, but still so young, so vulnerable and untouched.”
I wanted to speak and tell him I was almost his daughter, and he shouldn’t be looking at me the way he was. But no one had ever looked at me with love before-love I had needed for so long. Why was it making me afraid of him?
In V.C. land no girl is ever safe from any guy. Regardless of age difference or familial relationship. This is a hard fact.
Things spiral from here. Quick wrap up list for book one
- Heaven brings home her class hamster. Kitty kills it in the bathtub and pulls the little dead hamster babies out like a string of paper dolls.
- Kitty goes into a seeming catatonic state and the doctors can find nothing wrong with her. She just lies in her bed every day, wearing negligees and letting Heaven tease her hair and put on her face.
- Heaven starts having reluctant guilt sex with Cal (“He didn’t see other women, he didn’t really have a wife, and certainly he was a normal man, needing release of some kind.”) No girl. No.
- Cal and Heaven take Kitty home to her family in Winnerow to see if that will snap out of her stupor and to get some help caring for their veggie lady.
- Heaven sees Tom and Fanny. Tom’s living with super mean farmer man and dying to escape. Fanny done got knocked up by the Rev who bought her and is going to give his wife the baby and let her pretend its hers. Selling your kids is a Casteel tradition now.
- Heaven sees Logan.
Logan is a complete douche, on top of being the most boring dude alive, he slut shames Heaven since she isn’t pure anymore. Girls who aren’t virgins are basically garbage. Lesson learned!
So, with Kitty dying of what is eventually diagnosed as breast cancer, her siblings not needing her as they used to, and Cal basically done with her now that he “ruined” her; Heaven decides it is time to leave the hills behind forever and head to Boston to meet her mom’s family.
Because its a fresh start and nothing else bad will ever happen to her again! Except there are four more books, and they just keep getting crazier.