Author: V.C. Andrews
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Publication Date: May 26, 2015
Copy: Borrowed from my Local Library
Secret Brother is the third in The Diaries trilogy, part of the greater Dollanganger series. I’m not quite sure how it fits into the diaries trilogy really, it’s more of a stand alone sequel to Flowers In The Attic on a different arc.
As I have said in recent reviews, I don’t remember details of the Flowers series but I remember the basic story of the first book and the rest follow the family through the next couple of decades. I couldn’t go into specifics but I know that we were told in Flowers that Cory died, whether that was ever verified I can’t remember but I thought it was pretty clear. Having said that, the whole situation was that messed up that it could have been a lie.
Secret Brother is the story of a boy that was dumped in a hospital on the brink of death from arsenic poisoning. Said boy is not in a great state, undernourished and traumatised he has no memories and refuses to speak. If you are a follower of the parent series you know why, and don’t really blame the poor kid.
Clara Sue is the narrator of the story, a sixteen year old girl who has already lost a lot in her life. Clara Sue and her brother Willie live with their grandfather and his staff, and have done since their parents died years before. Since the loss of their parents they have also lost their grandmother, leaving them a very small, and close, family. The nanny is more family than employee but this is an affluent family in Virginia so the distinction is definitely still there.
The story begins the day that her little brother is knocked off his bicycle outside their grandfather’s estate. He is riding with the nanny when a pickup truck knocks them over leaving Willie critically injured and Myra battered and bruised.
Grandpa Arnold rushes them to the hospital to discover there is nothing to be done for Willie, but that very same day a boy of a similar age was dumped on the doorstep and is not in a good way.
For reasons that Clara Sue can’t fathom Grandpa Arnold takes an interest in the poisoned boy. It starts with him visiting the boy in the hospital and accelerates to paying his medical costs and ultimately bringing the boy home to recuperate on the estate.
Clara Sue feels this is a betrayal of Willie, all of their energy and attention should be focused on grieving their loss. A very selfish and shallow response to the plight of the poisoned boy but one that I could completely understand. All she could see was a betrayal of her brother by her grandfather trying to replace him with the poisoned boy. Clara Sue is still grieving when he installs the boy in her brothers room and plans to give him all of Willie’s things, including his name because he can’t remember his own.
In theory Clara Sue can see the nobility in what her grandfather wants to do, she can see that she should be proud that he wants to do the best for the boy but she can’t see past the terrible timing.
We get small glimpses into the way her grandfathers mind might be working through the insight of other staff. This isn’t a way to replace Willie but more to honour his memory and try to make up for failing him. I can appreciate this, but I can also completely understand where Clara Sue is coming from with the immediate and overwhelming grief of losing her brother.
Secret Brother had potential and could have added to the Foxworth/Dollanganger legends but the poisoned boy was never a fully explored character and he never completely recaptured his memories, maybe not a bad thing, so we only ever got snippets of memory and reactions of trauma though he worked with a psychologist. Clara Sue spent most of the book convinced that he would prefer to stay in the luxury he’d been brought to so why would he remember if it put his new standing in jeopardy.
The story is more focused on Clara Sue and her blossoming relationships