Last time on why am I even doing this, it’s the same thing as every other time, everything is horrible while the book insists it isn’t. That’s it. That’s every chapter of this book.
It seems that leaves are always bursting with new colors.
An incredibly subtle clue that for all the world seems to resemble modern America, the climate and coastline have completely changed and what they’re falling “Florida” is a temperate area, or the author assuming foliage is a universal constant?
Rhine says she’s been there six months. Six months and so far she’s managed to walk in circles in the gardens. Also, six months while the rapist inexplicably doesn’t see anything odd about not raping her, because how else would we preserve the only thing of value she has, her virginity?
I avoid Housemaster Vaughn when I can. And at dinner when he regales me in banter about the meal or the weather, I try to smile like his voice isn’t sending cockroaches up and down my spine.
I’m starting to really feel bad for the guy. I mean, he’s complicit in the kidnapping, murder, and rape, but that’s still an improvement over the guy who did it and was pleased by it. And otherwise he seems to do nothing but chat about innocuous things. Earlier she was ranting he sounded evil while talking about fruit.
Now that most of his attention goes to my younger sister wife
A thirteen year old who was raped.
I’ve had little opportunity to earn his favor. We’re alone in his dead wife’s favorite place, and I sense an opportunity to bond with him.
It’s the mildness of it all that ruins things. The book’s claim is that she’s doing it as part of her plan to escape, but it’s written like she actually likes him. The bits about her wanting to escape are always divorced from the rest, statements that appear out of nowhere and affect nothing. Compare it to her loathing of the rapist’s father, where the sound of the guy’s voice is like cockroaches to her. Here it’s just oh, the rapist is more interested in the little girl he raped so he’s not paying enough attention to me.
For a while we say nothing. I listen to the rhythm of his breaths, and ignore the nearly imperceptible flutter in my chest brought on by his presence.
And it appears even that fig leaf has been lost. She’s in love with the rapist.
The rapist says he hates fall because everything dies.
Look, I’m sure Florida has a very diverse bunch of tropical plants and some of them even do interesting things when it gets cold enough. But there has not been one day since we stole Florida that anyone from New York would respond to someone in Florida claiming they had real seasons with anything but laughter.
People with real seasons don’t have orange groves. Oranges are a zone nine fruit, zone eight if you baby the fuck out of them and accept the whiny things will die outright if there’s a cold snap. Did you know some orange trees can survive several whole hours at below freezing temperatures? Several whole hours!
Do you know what temperatures maple trees survive at? Fifty below, like a proper plant.
Next he’ll be going on about how he hates getting snowed in during the winter. Sometimes there’s a whole dusting of snow!
Oh, also the oranges are still blossoming. Oranges may be pathetic, but they’re subtropical, not tropical, and they do blossom and fruit based on seasonal weather – and that season is not late summer going into fall but like most plants, spring.
She likes fall, though, because she likes seeing everything go out with a bang. You know, I must say I see his point more than hers – when you live well for a short period then die suddenly, watching nature do the same each year probably would be inescapably morbid.
Suddenly the clouds seem very high above us. They’re moving over us in an arch, circling the planet. They have seen abysmal oceans, and charred, scorched islands. They have seen how we destroyed the world. If I could see everything, as the clouds do, would I swirl around this remaining continent, still so full of color and life and seasons, wanting to protect it? Or would I just laugh at the futility of it all, and meander onward, down the earth’s sloping atmosphere?
Well, you seem like quite the defeatist, so probably the latter, but that’s hardly helpful.
I mean, clearly, the oceans are fine. You can’t turn most of the ocean into a dead zone and expect the fish nearby to be fine with it. They’d be swimming in acid. The speck islands are hardly going to be charred and scorched by now – erosion would wear them down, barnacles would cover whatever they could, and assuming we didn’t explicitly nuke all the birds, those would be nesting and slowly building the island back up with their waste.
And yeah, it does go right from fall to clouds like that.
he musters up the courage to put his hand over mine
Yes, let’s treat him like a nervous boyfriend as if it’s impressive to make a move on someone you own. Poor Linden-chan.
For all of our marriage I have never allowed myself to be honest with him, but here, now, I want to tell him what’s on my mind.
I’d love to tell you that’s the Stockholm syndrome kicking in, but let’s face it, that’d require there to be a period when you weren’t acting this way.
Anyway, she doesn’t say she wants to go home or how she loves fall but she hates the thought of not seeing her fall because she’s trapped there or she misses her brother or has he stopped raping Cecily now that she’s pregnant because he really should. Instead, she says she doesn’t know if they’re worth saving.
Now that this has come up, and after the author’s own statements on how ambiguous it is if all the rape is considered rape, I’m left to think this is her idiotic stab at sounding deep. She’s writing a dystopia so of course you should ask if humans really deserve to live! Even though as presented there’s only a few distinct groups of people who are irredeemably evil and everyone else is just there. So there’s no ambiguity here either – no, the murderers and rapists aren’t worth saving, yes, most everyone else is. There’s something rather squicky about the victimized group treating the crimes committed against them as proof the whole species, themselves included, don’t deserve to live.
Mind, I think the biggest crime the author’s thinking of in this dystopia is the bit where we played god by daring to do anything related to science.
Anyway, the rapist doesn’t get what she means, and I really hate having to agree with the rapist but yes, that was nonsense.
Rhine clarifies with her brilliant reasoning: “It’s just all these doctors and engineers are looking for an antidote,” I say. “They’ve been at it for years. But is it really worth it? Can we even be fixed?”
Now, there’s been some ongoing bullshit about the whole dissection thing, but here I think makes it clearest that this is some flavor of religion. Christian, given that’s what it usually is. I have no idea her particular denomination, but that doesn’t matter. What matters are her actual beliefs, which may not even match up to any particular sect.
See, she’s invoking the god’s will thing here. The idea that cures are things God only gives you if you deserve them. For example, AIDS doesn’t get a cure because of those
sexy scary you said scary gays. Since it’s a hard sell blaming kids for leukemia, that can be because God figured the sexy gays weren’t feeling bad about dying and had to up the ante.
The point is, you’re not supposed to actually do things. What if you somehow weasel a cure out from under God’s nose? Then how will people be punished? If something doesn’t fall in your lap, just assume it’s God’s will and give up.
She’s expecting the rapist to argue, but it should be obvious the rapist is ever bit as depressed and whiny as she is. So instead of “defend[ing] the work of his madman father” because rational experimentation and study is MADNESS he says he thinks the same.
See, when he was a kid he got sick, and his dad gave him something experimental he’d been working on because that is totally how science works, and of course it made him worse.
Aside from the fact no one injects random things into their kid, and aside from the fact his dad can’t be working on curing all diseases at the same time, there’s actually a good chance the injection worked – he had a fever and it sounds like that made it spike, which is dangerous but also often a good way of killing the disease. In fact, there was a period of time where doctors tried deliberately infecting patients with fever-inducing viruses to burn out their other illness.
Vaughn could have been pumping any number of his twisted experiments into his son’s veins, for all I trust him
Yes, if we’re completely irrational and view him as an evil tormentor of the actual evil person, that sure is likely!
Anyway, it was really awful and he remembers not being sure he wanted to live and that coming back wasn’t even his decision.
Eventually I realize that I am holding on to him just as tightly as he holds on to me. And here we are: two small dying things, as the world ends around us like falling autumn leaves.
It’s hard, being a wealthy privileged rapist. It’s hard and only she understands.
Cecily’s little stomach begins to swell.
This is honest to god the very next line. The author presumably sees nothing wrong with going on about delicate Linden-chan and then jumping to how the thirteen year old he raped is experiencing pregnancy in her little child stomach.
She’s often bedridden, but she’s louder than ever, according to the attendants.
There is no “but”. There is nothing surprising about this. Was one of the first gen’s modifications cutting out the part of the brain that covered empathy for anyone other than rapists?
One day while she’s hanging out, eating ice cream and watching the fish, Cecily asks for her. Rhine expects her to be dying, because why else would anyone dare interrupt her from doing what she wants? But no, She’s propped upright on pillows, her toes separated by pieces of foam while the nail polish dries. She smiles at me with a straw in her mouth. She’s sipping cranberry juice.
I think we’re supposed to go “Oh, so she’s fine.” But that’s not at all what the image calls to mind. I don’t know, hasn’t anyone had, oh, a grandparent or something in this kind of position? It’s not exactly the picture of health to me.
Cecily wants Rhine to tell her a story. Then Rhine, who a moment ago said Cecily was bedridden, now says that she’s physically fine and the rapist has just decreed she be trapped here. It’s like every time I think there’s no way for this book to get worse, there’s some little extra detail it sneaks in. She has nothing to do all day but sit in a room with a locked window and think about the fact she’s pregnant and could die.
“What do you do all day?” she asks.
“We have lots of fun,” I snap, because she worried me for nothing. “We eat cotton candy and somersault in midair on the trampoline. Shame you can’t come out.”
Ooh, burn! That’ll teach the thirteen year old whose rapist refuses to let her even walk around!
And then it gets worse.
“What else?” She pats the mattress beside her, her eyes eager. “No, wait. Tell me about another place. What was your orphanage like?”
She doesn’t care Rhine ditched her. She doesn’t care Rhine ditched her and doesn’t feel the slightest guilt about doing so and just taunted her with how much fun Rhine’s having. She wants to talk to anyone because she’s that lonely.
The comment about the orphanage is the only bit that Rhine cares about. How it must suck to think life is about orphanages! More, apparently, than all the other horrible things going on that Rhine just ignores.
“I didn’t grow up in an orphanage,” I say. “I grew up in a city. With millions of people, and buildings so tall you’d get dizzy trying to see the tops of them.”
Rhine. Rhine you realize there were orphanages in the city. You realize that probably most orphanages are going to be in a city. You have to realize this.
Rhine ends up telling her a story in third person with all the bad parts edited out. Then she says the end is that a hurricane blew the two twins to opposite sides of the country.
She looks doubtful. “A hurricane blew them away? That’s dumb.”
And after Rhine just did her whole more-worldly-than-thou thing, no less. I don’t know where she gets the idea Cecily doesn’t know things about the world.
Rhine insists it’s totally true. Cecily asks about their parents, and Rhine tries to duck the question by saying she’ll go get more juice.
“Don’t. That’s not your job.” She pushes the blue button over her night table and says, “Cranberry juice. And waffles. With syrup. And an umbrella toothpick!”
“Please,” I add, because I know they’re all rolling their eyes at her
See, it seems clear to me that this is as much about Cecily not wanting Rhine to go. If the point is she’s an entitled brat, which is all the book harps on, she shouldn’t care who gets her things.
and it really is only a matter of time before someone blows their nose into her napkin.
Speaking of which, she’s not an entitled brat for specifying she wants syrup with waffles, what the hell book. Maybe if the staff wasn’t apparently made of incompetent assholes who need an explicit list to do their jobs they wouldn’t have so much trouble. The only silly thing she asked for was the umbrella, and for god’s sake, she’s thirteen and she’s forced to stay in bed because she’s pregnant and her owner cares more about the baby than he does her, if she wants to play with a mini umbrella are you really going to begrudge her that much? Why is there only sympathy for rapists?
Anyway, then it’s time for her to get an ultrasound. In case you forgot she’s a pregnant little girl. So Rhine skips off, happy to have that obnoxious bit over with.
Gabriel was eavesdropping and figured out it was about her. He asks when she thinks her hurricane will come.
But it’s hard not to start to ask how right it is to just leave Cecily. Or Jenna, for that matter – one wonders if she’s changed her mind on this being a good enough place to wait to die if she’s been terrified into letting Linden rape her. It’s not even that she has to take them – it would be reasonable to think that escaping alone is already nearly impossible, so she’ll never be able to do more – but that she should wish she could.
Anyway, that’s our segue into storms.
We don’t have very dramatic weather in Manhattan. Whenever the wind is bad, I ask, “Is this a hurricane? Is this?”
Thank you. Now, as you can see, New York doesn’t experience yearly hurricanes and the ones it does are usually category ones. As you can also see, the weather still manages to be dramatic. It would only be worse in Rhine’s day, when they can’t possibly be maintaining the infrastructure. If in modern times with modern safety measures and warning systems, there’s enormous property damage, mass flooding, power outages, and people drowning, imagine how much worse it’d be in a New York that’s already crumbling under its own weight.
There are leaves everywhere, red, and brown-splattered yellow. When nobody is around, I gather the leaves into piles
One afternoon I return to my bedroom and find that my window has been opened. A present Linden left for me to find.
I was about to say it was odd the floor was unlocked but her window wasn’t until now, but then I realized they were probably betting that the brides wanted to kill themselves enough to jump but not enough to manage a slower death. Which actually speaks of a frightening lot of psychological insight, or a very thorough learning curve.
She thinks about Halloween, specifically her parents telling her about it because it’s a holiday that doesn’t exist in the modern time. Do holidays exist at all? Because she’s talking about it like she knows the basic concept and just not this specific one, but this is such a pointlessly grim setting where no one seems to do anything but think about how their lives suck until they’re kidnapped and fall in love with a rapist and his employee. I wouldn’t expect their Halloween to perfectly match ours, but – that’s kind of how they work, they change based on the current culture. In most places our Halloweens are very sanitized because that’s how our whole lives are. And even in the most insulated areas you still have teens causing havoc. In a world where most teens are going to die in a few years, with poverty and misery everywhere, with violent riots left and right, why would Halloween disappear?
Also, apparently they discontinued candy corn. A victory for those of us with taste buds, but given the primary consumers of the vileness were always children who would eat anything as long as there was sugar involved, and those now make up a far higher proportion of the population, why?
Jenna, whose window remains locked, comes to my room and presses her nose to the screen and breathes deeply
At first I thought this reflected the fact Jenna’s obviously more suicidal than Rhine, and presumably the one who tried to jump originally … something that gives her claims that she’s fine with being there have a rather dark undertone, come to think of it. But then I realized Jenna could just jump out Rhine’s window and they must know this.
So it really is, as Rhine says, a “present”. Even scraps like this are special treats for the favorite
Cecily doesn’t get an open window either, no matter what she says.
Linden says the draft will be too much for her in her fragile state. “Fragile state,” she mutters to me once he has left. “I’ll put him in a fragile state if I can’t get out of this bed soon.” But she does like the attention. He sleeps beside her most nights
Everything about Cecily is heartbreaking. She may be trapped in bed for months, but most of the time she has company while she’s actually asleep. And also it’s her rapist. And also for all we know he’s still fucking her. But it’s okay: He feeds her éclairs and rubs her feet. He controls her in every way, but he’s willing to be nice to her on his terms.
Rhine goes on to say that there’s doctors everywhere to make sure she’s healthy, apparently unaware that they aren’t concerned for Cecily but for the rapist’s future baby, which requires an incubator for another few months.
One day when the rapist isn’t doting so heavily on her they close the door so no one will see and dance.
They have to do that. They have to hide behind a closed door just for Cecily to be allowed to stand up. And the book sees nothing wrong with that, just like it sees nothing wrong each and every time it’s cheerfully reported how even the tiny freedoms the other two have are denied to Cecily because she has to be controlled for the sake of a perfect baby. It understands these things are unpleasant, but it doesn’t think they’re wrong. They’re just what women have to put up with. Or thirteen year old girls.
Suddenly, the baby kicks for the first time. Cecily’s delighted and grabs their hands so they can feel it too, only for the storm to hit.
Our domestics come to hustle us into the basement, with Cecily in tears because she doesn’t want to be in a wheelchair when her legs work just fine.
Really. This is just so, so awful.
Linden isn’t hearing what she’s saying, partly but not entirely due to the alarms, and he holds her hand and says, “You’re safe with me, love.”
And yet it always gets worse.
He doesn’t care. He doesn’t care what she wants or even what she needs. She’s just his doll to have whatever he wants projected on to her. It’s all about him. It’s always been all about him – not just from his own viewpoint but everyone’s. Rhine makes excuses for him and keeps talking about how he’s been raised in this fake perfect world so he doesn’t know any better, when he’s never said a word to indicate that’s true. Even Jenna’s describing her own rape as “Not terrible,” and being nonchalant because it’s not like what he’s doing is a big imposition.
They go to the basement, and Rhine starts imagining Rose being woken by the alarms and coming for Rhine in retaliation for wanting to leave Linden. At first this seems intriguing, because as horrible as Rose was, she’s also the only female character we’ve seen who does anything.
She’ll bury me alive if that’s what it takes to keep me here by Linden’s side, because he’s the love of her life and she will not let him die alone.
But then I think, she’s entirely motivated by Linden. In some ways it’s worse that she has more to her than just her terrible love for him, because it’s all smothered under her devotion. There’s more to her and the book makes it clear that doesn’t matter. Only the rapist matters.
“Are you okay?” Jenna says, and for some reason her soft voice in my ear is clearer than the alarms. I realize she’s holding my hand
Jenna continues to be considerate. The other wives continue to be better characters than our viewpoint one.
Rhine asks when they’ll eat, which is her stealthy way of asking about Gabriel.
Housemaster Vaughn chuckles. It’s such an ugly sound. He says, “All this one can think about is food. I suppose if we’re all in one piece tonight, dinner will be at seven as usual, darling.”
Bizarre speech aside, he’s evil because Rhine is asking a stupid trivial thing to disguise her true intentions from him and he’s responding to it as stupid and trivial exactly like she intended. She then fantasizes about him and not the rapist being blown away by the hurricane.
You know, even if the evil thing wasn’t stupid, he’s only bothering with the wives because of his son. He has no interest in them himself. No matter how you look at it, Linden is what’s trapping them there.
“You mean a bright girl like yourself has never been taught the cultural art of chess?” Housemaster Vaughn says.
If Cecily wasn’t interested in playing a moment ago, she is now. She wants to be cultured as much as she wants to be sexy and well read. She wants to be all the things a young girl is not.
Oh my god Rhine you’re throwing a fit over him teaching her to play a game. Look at yourself.
Young girls play chess. And he’s probably just saying whatever comes to mind, but you know, Cecily actually is bright, and he’s addressing her as a girl and not a “young woman” or anything nauseating, and it was the rapist who looked at a thirteen year old and decided he wanted to fuck her and it was the rapist who did fuck her and it’s the rapist who wants to pretend she’s an adult and not a child.
And so, after six months, Cecily finds the first person willing to play a game with her.
Jenna, meanwhile, goes to bed to better ignore them, because she hates Housemaster Vaughn even more than she hates our husband because we can’t go two paragraphs without repeating that he’s evil incarnate unlike precious Linden-chan.
Speaking of the rapist, she makes a beeline for him because she sees he’s drawing something and she’s so interested in hanging out with him and learning more about what he does.
it’s a delicate pencil sketch of a Victorian house flourishing with flowers and ivy. But under all that, there’s a stable structure. Solid beams on the porch, strong-looking windows. I can even see inside to outlines of floors, and doors with clothes hanging on the knob.
He’s also drawn details of the people living there. Rhine is awed by how good he is, which makes him brighten up.
“My father thinks I shouldn’t draw families inside the houses. He says nobody will want to buy a design unless it’s clean and they can only see themselves living there.”
As always, his father is wrong.
“I would live there,” I say.
Oh the poor rapist! Thank goodness Rhine is there to prop up his self-esteem from his evil father’s evil minor criticism.
Rhine goes on for a while about how his drawings are awesome and he’s awesome and omg they’re sitting so close.
They are beautiful and strong. Meant to last a natural lifetime, like the home where I grew up.
So you mean utterly meaningless in he current world and probably just getting built because he has money to burn? God this is such a fucking stupid occupation. I presume it’s symbolic because god knows it makes no actual sense.
Anyway, more pep talking and then omg they’re about to kiss!
I feel myself being pulled into his gravity, and for some reason I feel like I want to trust him. I’m in his house-building hands, and I want to trust him. My lower lip goes slack, waiting for his to catch it.
You’re also in the hands that held your sister wives while he raped them. The ones that paid for the kidnapping of more then a dozen girls. And he may not have pulled the trigger, but the blood for those dozen he didn’t pick is on them too.
Before she can make out with the rapist who’s just so misunderstood you guys, Cecily bursts in and wants to talk about the drawings too.
Linden patiently shows her his designs.
She doesn’t understand why the rope on the tire swing is broken, or why there’s a solstice wreath on the front door of the empty shop.
Well that’s what happens when you buy a thirteen year old. If he really gave a damn about finding an intellectual equal, he’d have tried dating.
Rhine tells us Cecily’s bored but keeps talking with him just because she’s so desperate for positive attention. The book phrases it less reasonably:because she has his attention and won’t relinquish it. Sure, she’s an orphan, sure, she’s now isolated from almost all human contact and miserable, but she’s just such an attention hog.
Rhine decides to sulk with Jenna, who was not asleep. She points out that they were about to kiss.
“Don’t forget how you got here,” she says. “Don’t forget.”
“No, never,” I say.
But she’s right.
For a moment I almost did.
No. For the moment right now, you remember. You’ve spent most of the story forgetting.
Anyway, she does fall asleep, or dozes while hearing their voices. Housemaster Vaughn continues to prove his evil by trying to encourage her away from flirting the rapist for attention and instead offering to play chess with her, making him the only one in the house to both pay attention to Cecily and not demand sex from her.
This is not to say he’s a great guy, or even a decent one. At the least, he’s allowed everything that happened, and given Rose turned out to be the one who asked Linden to do this, he probably encouraged it as well. It’s just that everyone here has been so deeply and endlessly awful to her. I give Jenna a pass because of her crushing depression and the fact it’s probably really hard to deal with someone talking about how much they love the guy who murdered your sisters and how exciting everyone’s upcoming rape is. But no one else – including Rhine – has an excuse.
She is his pet. His pregnant, faithful little pet.
This line makes so little sense I kept rereading because it had to be talking about Linden. But it’s the line directly after How about you and your father-in-law play some chess?” after a dream sequence conversation where they’re both cartoon bugs and Vaughn’s got an arm around her. So apparently Vaughn treating her like the kid she actually is is worse than what the rapist does because she’s just a pet. Even if there was any evidence beyond Rhine’s usual inexplicable hate, being a pet would be an enormous step up from incubator and doll.