Heaven begins a V. C. Andrews series that follows Heaven Leigh (really) Casteel as she grows up in the hills of West Virginia. Heaven is one of 5 children growing up in a shack high in the hills. She lives with her grandparents, stepmother, and often-absent good-for-nothing father. We soon learn that Heaven is perfect – she’s beautiful, smart – loves school and books, and uber-helpful, keeping their shack clean and the younger kids in line. Her half-brother Tom is also pretty perfect as he loves school and never seems to be grouchy, and weirdly enough (for V. C. Andrews) does not seem to be in love with his sister. (Yet? We’ll see as the series progresses.) Fanny, a few years younger than Heaven, seems to have been born the town slut. She also has a quiet little brother Keith who does appear to be weirdly obsessed with the 3rd sister, who is also the youngest, called Our Jane. Everyone loves Our Jane, and I don’t understand why. She’s the whiniest little brat. I get that she has health problems, but she whines about everything – eating, not eating, walking, attention. I was surprised she didn’t want someone to breathe for her.
Heaven’s mother died in childbirth, so she never knew her mom, although she harbors dreams of one day going to Boston to visit her mother’s family. Her dad never got over the loss and blames Heaven for her mother’s death. He quickly remarried Sarah, although he doesn’t love her despite her best efforts. He now spends his time dealing moonshine, losing money, and sleeping with the town hookers. Everyone is miserable because they never have enough food, the shack is always cold, and dear ol’ dad doesn’t care. Fun!
The children walk 7 miles to school every day (I can’t completely blame Our Jane for whining about that) and Heaven soon meets her dreamy soul mate, who is 2 years older than her and the rich boy in town. They have a perfect relationship, never getting into any of the shenanigans that Fanny enjoys with every boy in town. Heaven and Tom also have a perfect teacher, who gives them food and books, and has someone received the special privilege of advancing a grade each year with Heaven’s class so they always have the same teacher.
Heaven’s grandmother dies, and dad comes home to announce that he has an STD and must leave again for treatment. Sarah takes off and for a while, Heaven tries to hold her family together without a functioning adult in the house. Dad does eventually return home, with the brilliant idea to sell off his children. Heaven is the last to go, and she ends up with a young couple who live in Atlanta. It turns out the wife is an ex of her dad, and is a few fries short of a Happy Meal. She heaps a variety of abuse on Heaven, and there is a disturbing scene involving a hamster that is not for anyone with a weak stomach. Her behavior and long work hours encourages Heaven to become close with her young husband, which you know will not end well. Meanwhile, Heaven is trying to track down and stay in touch with her siblings and childhood sweetheart.
Heaven definitely has its moments of crazy, keeping with the V. C. Andrews trend. I am interested to see what happens next, although this one is not as much of a page turner as Flowers in the Attic.