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Heaven (Casteel series)
Geschreven door Virginia Andrews
Geplaatst op 11-06-2021 om 10:39

Aantal sterren: 5/5

Recensie: The American South has been compared to a Sphinx that rarely, if ever, fully reveals her secrets (William Ferris). This book precipitated my interest in the American South and its rich diverse, and often unrepresented, culture. While uncommon at the time author Andrews became the head of the household after her father’s death and began working artistic jobs to facilitate an income for her mother and siblings. Sadly, she fell ill with breast cancer and died before completing her last book for which a ghost writer was commissioned to finish. He however adopted her name as a brand rather than a project and has since then written multiple series bearing her name, which regrettably were never able to match the same quality and genuineness as Andrews had given her books. This book follows the protagonist Heaven who is a teenage girl from one of the poorest areas in the heart of the American South: Virginia. Her beautiful name was meaning given to her by her mother who died in childbirth and upon giving birth saw the image of Heaven. Her father is resentful of her, and much like Bukowski’s depiction of the father only taught her the meaning of pain without reason. The town people find the stigma of their hillbilly background repelling and fear interacting with them. Heaven and her siblings are so bereft of human kindness that her sister acts out sexually to win favor and the only friend Heaven has is a boy from an upper-middle class family that struggles to keep their friendship secret from his parents. Her only source of something resembling kindness is from her brother Tom who helps her do the chores, which he is often punished for because it is deemed a woman’s job, and her grandmother who is 55 years old, young by today’s standard, but is battered and broken. She has lost all her teeth; her hair is falling out. She is emotionally battered and hardened due to the hard life she has lived and depressed because all her sons, but one is in prison. In a rising action plot point, Heaven’s grandmother reveals to her that the woman she always thought was her mother is just her stepmother. Heaven’s real mother comes from an exceedingly affluent family and ran away from home to marry her father. After the grandmother’s death their financial struggle only deepens, and the horrors of poverty reveal itself when the only solution Heaven’s father can think of is selling all his children off to the highest bidder. Heaven is sold to a previous girlfriend of her father who has failed to keep his love and has settled for the next best thing which is taking in his daughter. Initially things seem fine, she no longer resides in a shack but in a house and no longer must worry about going unfed for days however she soon discovers the woman who bought her, and her husband have nefarious intentions and she is subjected to multiple new horrors. This novel is written primarily to read in times of leisure and the reality of life is turned in a form of entertainment by the story plot, after all the South is not favored by Hollywood and representation is limited, either showing the historic South, its Achilles heel: race, or the idealist South. This book reconciles those imagines while also showing a realistic South which consists of people working long hours doing menial jobs but are still dying of starvation, the persistence of unemployment due to lack of education, how dysfunctionality can introduce itself to a family very subtly and then all at once, the issue of $#@?, poverty, and gender norms while lastly also showing the contrast between the upper-middle class, idealist South and the poor. While money has solved the hunger of Heaven’s body it did not solve the hunger of her soul. This was the last book series the author wrote before dying. Andrews herself was born in Virginia and understood the environment and the people with a distinctiveness which proves the importance of localized voices and how some writers can represent an area in a way an outsider may not. Despite its controversy, this book has remained one of my favorites.