‘For I think of us more as flowers in the attic. Paper flowers. Born so brightly colored, and fading duller through all those long, grim, dreary, nightmarish days when we were held prisoners of hope, and kept captives by greed.’ (location 33-38)
So for this third part of the group read of The Flowers in the Attic, we’re really getting into it. All of the setting up of the characters and the setting we have experienced in the first half of the book, are done now and we’re definitely getting down and dirty. So beware, there will be spoilers ahead as well as nakedness, so proceed at your own caution.
When we get into this part, we quickly find out that the children have been in the attic for two years. They have grown closer and closer and Chris and Cathy are more and more taking on all parenting responsibilities for the twins – as well as growing up and maturing themselves. And of course, what we have been waiting for to happen ever since the grandmother gave them her list of stupid rules, happens now.
When Cathy admires how she has grown and developed by looking at her naked body in a mirror, Chris comes and can’t stop looking at her too. And of course, the grandmother comes in, discovers them – and tells them that unless Cathy cuts of all her hair, they will not get any food for a week. Of course Cathy doesn’t want to cut off her hair but while she sleeps, the grandmother drugs her and puts tar in her hair. They manage to get the tar out but as the grandmother still doesn’t bring them any food, they have to cut off a part of her hair and conceal the rest under a scarf to pretend she cut it all off – but the grandmother still doesn’t show up with their food. Finally, when they are ready to eat mice after having starved for a week, she shows up with food. They even get sugar-powdered donuts after not having been allowed treats for fear of them ruining their teeth and needing to see a dentist.
By now, their mother isn’t showing up every day or even every week and both Cathy and Chris are starting to understand that they have to take care of themselves now and that they can’t really count on her. And they devise a way to get outside by hanging a rope and climbing down. So Cathy and Chris go night-swimming in the nearby lake and have a wonderful time but almost don’t make it bad up the rope again. So they realize they need another way to get out of the house.
Especially as their mother stays away for more than two months without any explanation. And during this time, Chris and Cathy finally crosses their grandmother enough for her to whip them. Severely.
And as if this isn’t bad enough, Cathy and Chris start to see that there’s something wrong with the twins. They are not growing, they’ve only grown about two inches while they’ve been there, from the ages of four to about seven.
This is also the time when the children get a new friend. Mickey the mouse. They catch a mouse in a trap one day and as it doesn’t die, Cory wants it as a pet. He manages to make it tame and he loves it. It is heartbreaking to read about how when their mother finally gets back, she ignores the twins and never praises Cory for his big accomplishment in making the mouse his pet.
When the mother finally do get back, even Chris, her favorite and the one who loves her the most, rebels against her. She behaves like a child and cries and makes them apologize and feel sorry for her – and realize that she has a point, namely that she’s the only one who loves them. She brings them gifts en masse but she leaves angrily.This visit almost makes Cathy commit suicide but she realizes that she is all her siblings have now.
We’re at the breaking point now. The mother has pushed them so far that the twins don’t know her at all anymore but see Cathy as more of a mother, even Chris is questioning her actions – and Cathy and Chris are considering taking things in their own hands.
When I began reading this book, I felt sorry for the mother. I saw her as one of those women from an earlier generation with no skills and no training whatsoever and who were forced to find someone to take care of her and I saw her as having no choice in returning to her parents. All that is probably true. But she did not have to lock her children away for two years and as if that isn’t bad enough, she didn’t have to neglect them and ignore her youngest. She is actually worse than the grandmother because the grandmother is true to herself and her beliefs while the mother should know better. After having lived in a loving relationship for fifteen years and having four children as a result of it, she should know better.
We’re nearing the end now – why do I have a feeling that this can’t end well?