Doing it at: No D in part one of our story
Catnip: Hardship Porn; V.C. Andrews; Rags to Riches; Evil Stepmother; This Shit is Bananas; Deep Dark Secrets; WTF
Shame Scale: It is impossible for me to be ashamed of my V.C., these books and all their nonsense are part of me.
Fantasy Cast: someone so 70’s and the blandest guy you can imagine for Logan Stonewall
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!
I don’t know about the rest of you, but for me some of the first really trashy stuff I read was V.C. Andrews. My friends and I discovered Flowers in the Attic (I wish I could remember who showed me the majesty so I could thank them!), passed it around and moved on to the other series. These books are what we spent our babysitting money on, the lift the flap surprise covers were doorways to insane plots and we LOVED them. I especially loved Heaven, which in my humble but completely correct opinion, has the craziest story. This shit is bananas B-A-N-A-N-A-S. Lets jump on in to Hill People drama and relive our formative shame reading years.
Our book is set in the Smoky Mountains, outside of a tiny town, in a little rickety shack much like the song Fancy by Reba McEntire. Only this family isn’t as classy as the family who had to pimp out their daughter to survive. The Casteel’s are hill scum, they’re eight people shoved into a wee bitty shack that may have seen better days, but probably not, it was likely always crappy and falling down. Heaven’s paternal grandparents live there, contributing nothing to their family because they aren’t aging well:
Granny was in her mid fifties. Chronic arthritis and various other undiagnosed aches and pains made life miserable for Granny, and the loss of most of her teeth made her seem twice her age.
but the older Grandpa grew the less he liked to fiddle and the more he liked to whittle
Heaven’s moody, shiftless, alcoholic, whoring dad hates her. I mean he isn’t particularly nice to anyone else in the family but he especially hates Heaven Leigh (we are just gonna roll with her name, it’s the least ludicrous thing going here). It hurts Heaven’s feelings to be hated by her daddy, until her Granny tells her the big deep dark secret of her life. Heaven doesn’t have the same mother as the other four Casteel kids! HER mama was a city gal, a not even old enough to drive pretty as a picture rich girl who abandoned her fancy life for Heaven’s handsome slick talking daddy. Angel. That’s right ANGEL mother of HEAVEN.Granny shows her a fancy city folk suitcase that’s been wrapped up and stored under the porch, in it are a bunch of fancy rich people clothes. AND a doll that looks just like Heaven, only with silver blonde hair. Heaven’s real mama came from a family who made fancy-ass expensive dolls, this is important to remember for later. How Heaven didn’t figure out that she had a different mother than the other kids, when her own brother is the same age as her and they aren’t twins, I do not know. Once Heaven knows that she isn’t pure hill trash (only 1/2, like me!), she hates her daddy even more.
To be fair her dad is kind of the worst human ever. When Heaven’s teen mom died, he brought home a new wife right away. A new wife who was conveniently already several months pregnant with his son. Pa doesn’t work, instead choosing to run moonshine across state lines for the distilleries. And the money he makes from that he spends on booze, and gambling and whores at Shirley’s Place down in town. Good old Pa also gives his second wife syphilis, causing her to birth an abomination
I could hardly accept what my eyes told me.
Shocking to see a baby with nothing between its legs.
But what did it matter that this child was neither girl nor boy when it was dead and the top of its head was missing?
If anything is appropriate reading for a gaggle of twelve-year-old girls with over active imaginations, it is surely V.C. Andrews!
This baby is the last straw for the much put upon Sarah, neglected wife of Pa. She leaves and never looks back. And the shock literally kills her granny. Leaving Heaven to mother her younger brothers and sisters with not much help from her invalid grandpa (who is in his SIXTIES but the years ain’t kind to the hill folk) or from daddy of the year. Her almost twin brother is steady and helpful, her next youngest sister Fanny is a twelve-year-old slut who is happily flashing her panties to boys in the cloakroom, the youngest sister is puking all the time for who knows why, and the smallest boy is fine but still another mouth to feed when they ain’t got no food in them there hills.
The school teacher in Winnerow, Miss Deale, tries to help the kids. When the school board refuses to let the Casteel kids take their school books home to do homework or extra studying (everybody knows those Casteel’s will just get the books filthy with their hill people dirt), she lets them take her personal copies. When she sees that they don’t have anything for lunch she tries to make sure they eat. And when she runs into them after church she takes them for a fancy pants restaurant lunch, where little Our Jane pukes everywhere. Little sisters ruining perfectly nice things with their messed up digestive tracts is one of V.C.’s tropes.
Pa starts coming home less and less and there isn’t money or food. And Heaven can’t get to town for school anymore as someone needs to run the house. She also can’t get down to see her town boy boyfriend, Logan, who is the human equivalent of Melba toast in a crew neck sweater. Heaven likes how clean, and sweet, and handsome he is. And Logan likes how pretty and PURE she is. They don’t know each other well, this is the romance of 14-year-old kids. In V.C. land the heroines always end up with their teenage loves eventually. So, if you plan to read this whole series (which I DO recommend) get used to spending time mooning over white bread. Logan’s parents would never approve of him seeing a Casteel because everybody in book land knows they’re the worst of the worst
In town and in school they called us hill scum, hill filth, and scumbags. Hillbillies was the nicest thing they ever called us.
Since they’re so universally loathed, and since there’s only so much one single, woman school teacher can do, no one steps up to see why the kids have stopped coming to school. And Tom’s attempts at stealing to feed his family end up with a burly man with a shot-gun outside their shack.
Pa’s run off, and Our Jane’s real sick, and they’re all going to starve to death. Things are bleak. The kids don’t have anything to eat but “lard scrapings and two dry biscuits”. In Flowers in the Attic when the kids start literally starving to death, Christopher Doll cuts his own arm and lets the others DRINK HIS BLOOD. Sadly, things don’t go so far in Heaven. Pa finally reappears and brings tons of food
two sacks of flour, salt, slab bacon, beans, dried peas, a huge tin of lard, bundles of tied spinach, apples, potatoes, orange yams, bags of rice, and lots more we’d never had before, such as boxes of crackers and cookies, and peanut butter and grape jelly.
I don’t know why I love a big long list of food, but I surely do. This is when Pa finds out that Sarah has left, and there’s much wailing about his plight before he tells the kids he’s going off to get cured of his bad disease — the syph — and that they should burn the bags the food came in and hope they never get the syph from sleeping with a bunch of town whores (I may be ad libbing that last bit). The cabin is cold, the wind blows right through all the cracks, and there’s quickly no more food to eat. The children are inadequately clothed and getting extra desperate when Pa shows up again.
On Christmas Day.
To sell off two of the kids to some rich people.
As one does; he sells the two youngest to a decent seeming wealthy couple. Then a few weeks later he sells Fanny (the slutty one) to the minister and his barren wife. Then he sells Tom to a man who needs help on his farm. And finally he comes for Heaven Leigh.
To Heaven he presents a choice: a staid older couple. Or a beautiful redhead and her handsome young husband. For his most hated child he’s found two buyers. Heaven picks that younger couple. Heaven picks So So wrong.
Read the rest of our review: Heaven: Living for the City