Petals on the Wind by V.C. Andrews.

After reading V.C. Andrews‘s Flowers in the Attic for book club, I found myself practically dying of curiosity to discover what fate had in store for the surviving Dollanganger children.  I mean, after enduring three years in an attic (not to mention incest, possible rape, poison, religion, tarring, whipping, hair-pulling and Bible-thumping), what could Christopher, Cathy and Carrie possibly have left to face?

A lot, apparently.

Petals on the Wind picks up right where Flowers in the Attic left off, with the three Dollangangers riding a bus en route to Sarasota.  During the trip, the youngest child, Carrie, gets violently ill; a fellow passenger (who, strangely, happens to be a mute) brings them to the home of Dr. Paul Sheffield, for whom she works as a housekeeper.  Of course, Paul decides to adopt the children as his wards once he hears their story, and of course he falls madly in love with Cathy, who each day grows to be more and more beautiful, of course.  Then, of course, there is a seduction (it wouldn’t be V.C. Andrews without a handful sprinkled here and there, as liberally as arsenic on doughnuts) even though Cathy is a teenager and Paul is in his forties.  If that wasn’t enough, there’s a gorgeous (of course) ballet dancer vying for Cathy’s attention, and a brash and possessive attorney, who also happens to be the Dollanganger’s stepfather (of course).  Oh, and Chris is still desperately and sinfully in love with his sister, of course, who, by the end of the book, is in her thirties and the mother of two children by different fathers.  I won’t wreck it for you by saying what their parentage is.

Trust me, I’m not making any of this up.  In fact, when I was waiting for Keith to pick me up this past Friday after work, I was that odd person cackling to herself as she sat outside of Dunkin’ Donuts while reading a book.  How could I not, having read lines such as these?

I was fifteen.  The year was 1960, and it was November.  I wanted everything, needed everything, and I was so terribly afraid I’d never in my life find enough to make up for what I had already lost.  I sat tense, ready to scream if one more bad thing happened.  Like a coiled fuse attached to a time bomb, I knew that sooner or later I would explode and bring down all those who lived in Foxworth Hall!

…I wanted something…fanciful — and a mountain of it!  I wanted all my star-filled dreams of love and romance to be fulfilled — on the stage, where I’d be the world’s most famous prima balleria; nothing less would do!  That would show Momma!

Damn you, Momma!  I hope Foxworth Halls burns to the ground!  I hope you never sleep a comfortable night in that grand swan bed, never again!  I hope your young husband finds a mistress younger and more beautiful than you!  I hope he gives you the hell you deserve!

That’s not even the worst of it.  Like I said, I don’t want to wreck it for you.

On a side note, what is it about V.C. Andrews that gets readers going?  When they heard book club and I were reading Flowers in the Attic, I got three back-to-back emails (or IMs) about the author and related remembrances.

Oh, I was one of the many broads our age obsessed with V.C. Andrews as an early teen. You will be RAVENOUS for the book after Flowers in the Attic even though it’s not as good.  Seriously terrible writing, but it’s kind of like Stephen King — you can’t deny that you’re impressed with the outrageousness of plot.

— Marcella

I never read it, but I remember in seventh grade the girls on the bus would read it and get to really scandalous sections and then read them out loud.  It was awesome.

— Ben

Maybe it was high school that I read Flowers in the Attic. I went through a V.C. Andrews phase, but some of them are pretty disturbing.  I think I saw it on TV once too.  Listen for the woman singing in the opening…  still creeps me out to this day.

— Joann

Anyone else willing to share?

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