Wither, Ch11

Last time on this horrible book, there was a storm and Rhine talks about how awesome the rapist is and almost kisses him.


The storm turns out to be minor. She and Gabriel chat. She starts going on about how the garden is getting ready for “winter” despite it being Florida.

“I don’t love him,” I say.
“What?” he says.
“Linden. I don’t love him. I don’t even like to be in the same room as him. I just wanted you to know that.”


I’m in his house-building hands, and I want to trust him. My lower lip goes slack, waiting for his to catch it. remember?

I mean, even aside from the part where she’s explicitly saying she trusts him and wants to kiss – I’m sorry, where she’s passively waiting for him to kiss her like a good little maiden, there’s the bit where she’s going on about house-building hands despite the fact he doesn’t actually build houses and only makes sense in the context of someone so infatuated they’ve lost touch with reality.

Gabriel doesn’t answer immediately, so she stares at him and observes he has a smudge of hot chocolate on his lip and repeats she wanted him to know. Because love triangle.

And he’s happy about it and they laugh together.

But when we get up and start walking automatically toward the house, I remember that we’re both prisoners.

There is actually no reason to assume this. We do know that the servants were bought, but that doesn’t actually translate into being trapped. The servants seem quite willing to remain and the fact they don’t leave the property seems to have more to do with it being unnecessary than impossible. At the least they aren’t locked up like she is.

They walk back in and meet up with TEH MAD SCIENTIST who SMILES AT THEM and DOESN’T CARE ABOUT THE TWO OF THEM HANGING OUT in the most sinister of manners.

“It’s such a nice cool day. The air is refreshing on these old lungs of mine,” he says, patting his chest. “I don’t suppose you’ll take a walk with your father-in-law?”

Of course, she tells us, it’s an ORDER and not a question, despite the part where there’s that question mark and he seems to be trying to be friendly.

I think what the author’s going for is the idea that there’s this sinisterness to him that’s evident even though he’s trying to pretend to be nice. The problem is that she decided to express this while having him be perfectly nice and have the character react to it as if he’s evil, and that requires a lot more skill to pull off than this story has.

Anyway, evil mad scientist says that his son really loves her, and she “demurely” pretends she hasn’t noticed.

I still haven’t figured out if it’s my resemblance to Rose that interests him, or something else.

Given the romance, it’s presumably how spunky she is.

Anyway, evil mad scientist actually does manage a moment of creepiness: “He adores Cecily, as do I. She’s eager to please. It’s charming, really.”

Because this is evil mad scientist, Rhine is quick to criticize this. Cecily is a little girl who never had a childhood, who wants so badly to fit into this role that she’ll do anything our husband asks. So I’ve been saying. But you don’t seem to care except when you can score points with it.

Anyway, evil mad scientist points out that she’s a bit young and inexperienced.

And the older one, Jenna, she fulfills her duties, but she doesn’t have an ounce of your charm. She’s something of a cold fish, isn’t she? If I had my way, we would just toss her back into the water.”

See, we’re finally getting something on why evil mad scientist is evil. It’s just that it’s taken more than a third of the book to get here and pales in comparison to the ongoing awfulness of so many “good” characters we’ve seen.

“But Linden insists we keep her. He thinks she’ll come around and conceive a child.

This disturbs me as well, but it’s for how the two things are linked – like women only get pregnant if they’re in love, or put another way, as if, if he gets her pregnant, it’ll prove she secretly doesn’t mind being locked up as his property.

Evil mad scientist says this is because his son is too compassionate.

Some compassion. He killed her sisters.

Thank you for remembering, Rhine, but sadly the two things don’t contradict. The rapist likes people to like him. It’s rather like a little kid picking a kitten and then letting the rest be thrown in the river, but getting upset the one he picked doesn’t like him.

Rhine decides to be a good person for the moment and lies about how Jenna’s just so very shy and afraid she’ll say something dumb. She’s hoping this will discourage him from tossing her back because Rhine assumes that would be something unpleasant, despite the fact that, at least metaphorically, it just means putting her back where she was. No different than what Rhine keeps mentioning when she goes on about catch and release fishing. If we just go with what we know, Jenna would presumably be killed like all other rejected wives, which is a fate to fear but not something it makes sense to go on about how you have no idea what would happen.

Presumably the implication is that the evil mad scientist would do evil mad science to her, but if he wanted to, he’d have bought the other girls.

“I’ve seen the way he brightens when you’re near him.”
I blush, which wasn’t supposed to be part of the act.

I’d like to attribute this ongoing fuckup to some sort of rewrite issue, where the author went back and put stuff in earlier without remembering to change later references to avoid the problem of Rhine repeatedly falling in love. But I think it was probably this bad from the start. The author views the rapist as a static appealing character, so Rhine always acts the same way with him.

Among its other failings, this screws up any halfway decent treatment of a romance plot, because Rhine starts off already attracted to him, but the book never realizes this because it views attraction to the rapist as the normal baseline for people.

The evil mad scientist tells her that his son is thinking of going back to work.

Housemaster Vaughn’s smile seems almost sincere.

But for some reason it isn’t. Because Rhine just knows.

He tells her about his first son, who was one of the early kids before anyone knew they’d all die.

“Linden isn’t the strongest child, but he’s all I have.” His kind geriatric face is back. If I didn’t know better, I’d pity him.
But when I put my arm around him in comfort, I’m fully aware that he’s not to be trusted.

Unlike her precious rapist.

Rhine never does elaborate on why she “knows better”. Presumably, this is her still going on and on about the damn dissection. Kidnapping, murder, rape? Forgivable. Only dissection marks you as evil incarnate.

The evil mad scientist evilly says he’s working on an antidote that will save people and he’ll be done before the four years are up.

And if not, then what? I try to fight off a thought that Cecily’s baby will become his new guinea pig after Linden and his wives are gone.

Why would you need to fight off an obviously flawed thought? He’s motivated by saving his son, he’d probably just give up if he fails. Unless she means the baby will take his son’s place and he’ll focus on saving it, in which case Rhine’s a fucking moron because the rapist isn’t the guy’s guinea pig. The rapist is running around having fun.

Anyway, he then evilly pats her hand and tells her that she’ll get to live a natural lifespan too. Rhine says she’s nauseated by his very presence, then starts saying it’s probably because he knows she’s plotting to escape. Rhine, for the hundredth time, everyone knows you want to escape and have since before you even woke up. It’s why you’re confined.

There actually is a reason to be bothered here, and it’s that he’s presenting things as if her staying to be the rapist’s wife is required for her to get the antidote, as if the antidote won’t be released to anyone but a select few.

He’s looking right into my eyes and I can’t recognize him. He seems less menacing than usual.
“Do you understand what I’m saying?” he asks.
“Yes,” I say. “I do.”

Here’s what she means. Rhine suddenly starts on a ramble about how after her parent’s death they suddenly had a rat infestation so her brother, because as she’s established on each of these anecdotes Rhine herself is a useless lump of failure, deals with the problem by poisoning them, which, because the author doesn’t know much about rats, works perfectly to get rid of every last one because apparently in the future rats have lost all their billion ways of dealing with poison. Anyway like everything, seeing the rats die made her very sad, and like everything, she didn’t actually object. Rhine is very good at letting other people deal with problems and then whining afterward that it was mean, but of course letting them keep doing whatever the thing was lest she be inconvenienced.

Housemaster Vaughn is giving me a choice. Here I can live in this house where he’s dissecting Linden’s dead wife and child for an antidote that doesn’t exist. Here I can die in four years and our bodies will all be experiments. But for four brief years I’ll be the dazzling wife at ritzy parties, and that will be my reward. I’ll still die like the rat, in agony.

As I said several chapters ago, the plot of this book is that being kidnapped by the rapist prince is awesome, it’s just that his adviser is evil. That’s the great tension – should she stay with the pretty sexy rapist as his property if it means dealing with the evil, evil man who cuts up the dead bodies of people who died naturally?

Also, because Rhine is insane, she seems to somehow think the guy would be the one making her die in agony and not it being what’s going to happen to her either way. She’s not even expressing worry about being in Rose’s situation with medication used to prolong her life. She’s just bitching about being cut up after the fact.

That night she thinks about her home and says she tries to remember the rapist is evil.

He has stolen me from my twin, my home, and he keeps me for his own.

Also the rape and murder, but those happened to other people, so whatever I guess.

She dreams of her brother one night, and he’s promising he’ll keep looking for her forever, even if it kills him. And she wakes up because the rapist has wandered n to use her as a bedwarmer.

And I know he has been dreaming of Rose; like me, his nights are often too lonely. He kisses my hair and wraps an arm around me. I allow it. No, I want it. Need it. Eyes closed, I lay my head to his chest for the forceful thudthud of his heart.

See, it’s okay because he’s sad too. It’s good he’s there to comfort her when she’s sad about what he did to her.

That morning she pauses a minute to beat herself up about being so dumb, but then she decides to follow up by being more dumb:

At what point does this good wife act stop being an act?

That would have required it to be an act at some point, instead of you acting the same way the whole time but occasionally pausing to say that right now you were just pretending.

How long before he tells me he loves me, and expects me to carry his baby? And what’s worse, how long before I agree?

In another book, this would be really creepy. But as we’ve established, Rhine doesn’t have an existing personality that she’s losing to Stockholm or anything, she’s just always like this. Besides, she was already fine letting him fuck her a couple chapters ago because he was so sad, and then she was fine letting him kiss her because he drew a house.

I try to fight it, but Vaughn’s voice floods into my brain.
You’ll have everything you can dream of for years and years.
I can have this. I can be Linden’s bride, in Linden’s mansion. Or I can run, as far and as fast as I can. And I can have a shot at dying with my freedom.

And so next storm she climbs out her window, drops into a shrub, and takes off.

It’s about here I’d speculate on what the author intended verses how I read this, but then I realize that from what little I’ve learned of the author I can’t really say this is unintended.

It seems to me that what’s going on here is Rhine is doing this, basically, out of a mix of stubbornness and fear. She’s started to realize that her reasons for hating this place aren’t holding up, and if she stays there she’ll have to face that, so she decides to ditch the place. It’s like someone running away because the people are treating them too nicely and they’re afraid they’ll end up liking them back.

Presenting it like this would be reprehensible, but that’s nothing new for the book, which is why I can’t shake the feeling this may not be an accidental thing from bad writing but an issue of bad outlook instead.

My sense of direction is gone.

From what you told us, you never had any.

And there’s so much noise, and it doesn’t get quieter no matter how fast or far I move.

Or, apparently, any sense whatsoever. I’m trying to imagine just how much of a sheltered idiot you’d have to be to think storms get quieter if you walk twenty feet or based on how fast you walk, but short of spending your whole life raised in a giant building…

She somehow wanders over to the golf course and feels pleased with herself for figuring out where she is, even though she has no idea where that is in relation to any exit. Oh, and she’s hearing people shouting her name, which given the amount of background noise she already mentioned presumably means they’re close but this doesn’t seem to occur to her.

I press my body against the giant chocolate scoop as branches fly past me. The trees are waving and howling. The trees! If I could climb one of them, it would be easier to see farther.

That’s right, she’s now literally too stupid to live.

The storm gets worse and she’s having trouble even breathing, so she decides to crawl over to the lighthouse as the best place to die because it reminds her of home and Rhine’s a quitter.

But when Rhine gets there, she decides it’s telling her to keep going, because self-motivation is for boys. She decides to climb up to where the light is. The ladder is just decorative and she explicitly says it’s not meant to be climbed, but somehow it’s climbable and somehow that applies even when there’s so much wind she can’t even stand.

At the top, she manages to see The pointed flower from Gabriel’s handkerchief, constructed into an iron gate.
It is the exit, miles from me.

I’d like to repeat that Rhine just climbed the lighthouse because she felt like it. She’s found the exit by utter chance, not because she had any such plan.

And I realize what the lighthouse was trying to tell me. That I am not supposed to die today. I am supposed to follow the path it’s lighting for me

Because again, self-motivation is for boys. Her brother does things, Rhine goes crazy and decides objects are telling her to do things because god forbid she manage anything at all on her own.

Anyway, Gabriel shows up. She shouts that she’s going to leave and he should come with her. Then she’s clocked over the head by something and falls into his strong arms.

Rhine continues to be a failure of a protagonist, but I guess at least the escape plot finally progressed a little. And we finally got evil mad scientist being…well, still not worthy of her constant bitching, but at least starting to approach the standard nastiness of all the characters.

19 Comments

  1. SophieSummer says:
    I just don’t *get* this book. So, she’s happy the rapist is near her, then she hates him, then she runs away during a storm, then she somehow manages to find the exit, then she gets knocked out. This makes so little sense.
    2
    1. Farla says:
      No, it makes total sense! See, she’s happy to be around him, which is why she runs away, which just happens to lead to her finding the exit she never could before, and then the storm knocks a treebranch into her skull.

      …well, the last part at least makes sense.

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      1. Random Reader says:
        Was that what it was? A branch? Huh. And from the text quoted here, I’d been wondering if someone caught sight of her, climbed up in pursuit and clubbed her while she was yelling.
         
        Not sure how likely either the branch or the pursuer are. At the very least, it would have made things more interesting because maybe being literally hit over the head with how everything’s wrong would be a catalyst to get Rhine or Gabriel to attempt escape. Catching the unconscious form of someone your fellow searcher just knocked into tomorrow could be a nice nudge.
         
        … Then again, with everything that apparently hasn’t been enough to motivate escape attempts before this one…
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        1. SophieSummer says:
          That’s what I thought too! I thought Gabriel had clubbed her over the head and it was supposed to be some huge betrayal.
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          1. Farla says:
            The mistake you make is assuming love interests can do anything wrong. The rapist already kidnapped her and murdered some other girls, then followed it up by fucking a thirteen year old. There are no dealbreakers in this world.
            1
            1. SophieSummer says:
              Yeah, it would probably lead to her realizing he just did it out of love for her or something. I mean, if he clubbed her in order to kill her and sell her organs on the black market it would still make him better than the rapist. 
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              Reply
        2. Farla says:
          Well, she got hit with a something the storm blew into her head, anyway.

          What you outline would be far more interesting. Rhine going to Gabriel shouting about getting out, and Gabriel watching someone else come up behind her and club her over the head.

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  2. Savanah says:
    Finally something happens! Now, Gabriel and Linden can duel to the death and the person that wrote this book can die in a fire! 
    1
    1. SophieSummer says:
      I never like to wish death upon people, but here it seems like their genes need to be removed from their family line so that they don’t taint the human genome.
      1
      1. Laura says:
        Half the characters in this book deserve Darwin Awards, but humanity’s doing a good job of accidentally itself out of existence already.
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        1. Farla says:
          Really, the question ends up being how they even lasted this long.
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  3. Waitaminnit. She climbs a ladder up the side of a lighthouse. In a raging storm. Does the author have any idea how high lighthouses are? And how hard it is even in good weather to climb a ladder that high, especially if you’re an inexperienced young woman whose only exercise seems to have been walking occasionally in a garden? I can’t even.
    1
    1. Farla says:
      It’s not a real lighthouse, it’s a fake mini-golf one. This explains why it’s not so high…doesn’t explain why it’s somehow got the structural integrity to handle someone climbing all over it in a storm when we’re told the whole thing’s decorative.
      1
      1. Oh! Okay. Because that weirded me out. I’m so afraid of heights that on a trip to St. Augustine I was too terrified to go up the staircase *inside* the thing.
  4. Act says:
    I think my Current Favorite Implication is that Rhine is more valuable as a person because Linden won’t rape her. It’s only Tru Wub if there’s no sex involved.
    1
    1. Farla says:
      No, you have it the wrong way around. This is Calvinist territory: the fact Linden doesn’t rape her shows that she’s inherently more valuable as a person.
      1
      1. Act says:
        Ah, so instead of Making Her Better, he’s just reacting to her Innate Betterness.
        1
  5. TracyW says:
    Why would you only want to release the antidote to a select few? Just for the evils? If you’re selfish I can see starting off charging a very high price then bringing the price down in stages to marginal cost so as to maximise your profits but I don’t see why anyone would want to keep it minimal for anything short of Joker-style “I want to watch the world burn!”
    And if there’s going to be an antidote why would Vaughan want Rhine to stay for four years? With a normal life span Linden could marry someone who genuinely wants to be there, or Vaughan could do the whole medieval thing and marry him off to someone from another rich and powerful family.
    1. Farla says:
      I think it’s assuming that the cure would be incredibly expensive. I think American culture is actually primed for this sort of thing – we’re so used to being told health care has to cost millions and all that’ll save you are the insurance companies and there’s just no choice but to let homeless people die in the streets because we can’t afford to help everyone that it’s assumed the natural state of things is to be expensive and anything that isn’t is a rare exception.

      And if there’s going to be an antidote why would Vaughan want Rhine to stay for four years?

      Honestly, he probably just doesn’t want to bother getting another batch of girls. He paid good money for Rhine, finding another blonde that looks like Rose for his baby boy is just so much effort.

      1

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