Lessons from Human Thriller

I’ve recently begun rereading and re-collecting books by an author I used to love as a teenager.

V.C. Andrews. Her most popular book is called “Flowers in the Attic”, which is the first in a series of 5 books that tells the saga of a family line. At the core of this saga is a family trait that has the seemingly uncontrollable urges for incestuous marriages. At its counterpoint are influential, dominant family members who are religious fanatics who have strange methods (bordering on evil) of enacting punishment.

In “Flowers in the Attic”, 4 siblings are locked in a room with an attic for several years — locked in by a selfish mother and a sadistic, vengeful grandmother. You can just imagine what that scene would be like. A teen girl and guy locked in a room for several years at the peak of their growing sexuality…. I personally shudder and grimace at the thought of ever having anything more than a completely brotherly relationship with my siblings… and I’m quite sure most people on earth feel the same way.

But then, that’s why it’s called fiction.

As a teen, I voraciously read V.C. Andrews’ books (she has about 70 titles!). I still can’t properly categorize her genre… her books are always a mix of horror, thiller, drama and goth. It’s not about clear-cut crime, or horror in the supernatural sense of the word. Her books are not the type of books one can easily forget about. I always find myself still reeling for days after reading every book. Her themes border on the extreme and disturbing, because what she does is paint a picture of the human soul at its blackest and darkest. She does epitomize “the things you only read about in books”.

I don’t quite know what drew me to her books as a teen. Maybe it fits well with the angsty, emo teenager that I was.

Nowadays, I’m no longer angsty and emo. In fact, for many years I found myself staying away from heavy reading (and even heavy movies) since I wanted to fill my life with lightness & beauty in the quest for a more positive outlook in life. Why I choose to go back to my teen favorite Goth writer at the peak of my general distress at life, I’m still trying to figure out.

But I have a theory.

Lately I’ve been feeling that life is generally heavy on many fronts. With dad’s illness, our financial troubles, our less than perfect domestic situation, and everything else… occasionally I find myself feeling lost and simply drained. Sometimes I veer towards wondering if this kind of life where many things that go wrong need to be put to right, and I’m the only one who can put it to right — will be the way everything else unfolds for the rest of my life.

At times when life just seems too heavy to bear, a book like “Flowers in the Attic” and all the horrors within in – make me feel like the luckiest person in the world compared to these kids locked in an attic by their own flesh and blood. It’s just fiction, I know. But it’s not unlikely that the extent of human evil can make something like this actually possible.

Sometimes in moments of vulnerability when we feel our entire world is just crashing down around us, it helps putting things into perspective. To every horror story, there are other worse horror stories out there. Maybe at the end of it all, what matters is how we’re able to tear ourselves away from self-pity so we can move on and continue trying to make things better.