Petals On The Wind Summary

Virginia C. Andrews

Petals On The Wind

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Petals On The Wind Summary

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V.C. Andrews’s novel Petals on the Wind (1980) is the second entry in Andrews’s Dollanganger series, which began with Flowers in the Attic. The narrative takes place from November 1960 through the fall of 1975. At the end of Flowers in the Attic, Cathy, Chris, and Carrie are heading to Florida following their escape from Foxworth Hall. Petals on the Wind picks up the story at that point.

Carrie feels sick on the bus as she is still weak from a poison that killed her twin, Cory. Henny (Henrietta) Beech, a mute woman of African-American descent, rescues them, bringing them to the South Carolina home of her employer, forty-year-old Dr. Paul Sheffield. At first, the children will not tell them who they really are, but eventually, believing that Paul truly cares about them and might be of help, Cathy tells him what they have been through. When their first Christmas with Paul arrives, Cathy, performing in a ballet audition, begins to bleed and collapses. She learns when she wakes up in a hospital that a D&C was performed on her and that the cause of the bleeding was likely irregular periods, a result of her nearly starving while in the attic. Cathy thinks it was probably a miscarriage knowing that she slept with Christopher in the attic, but she does not reveal this and plans to move forward in life and develop her dancing abilities.

The children do very well under the care of Henny and Paul. Chris enters a pre-med program and then goes on to medical school. Cathy goes to ballet school, first locally, then in New York City. Cathy, however, still yearns for revenge against her mother whom she blames for all that has ever been wrong in their lives. Carrie is embarrassed by her small stature and failure to grow; she continues to feel sorrow over the death of Cory. Cathy and Chris feel conflicted by the feelings they hold for each other, but Cathy tells him he has to find someone else to love, rejecting his advances toward her. As time goes on, Cathy and Paul fall in love and plan to get married, much to the disappointment of Chris. Paul shares with Cathy that his wife, Julia, drowned herself and their son after Paul admitted to her that he had had an affair. After Paul and Cathy get engaged, she has a ballet performance in New York City. After the show, Paul’s sister Amanda is waiting for her. Amanda suggests to Cathy that Julia is still alive. She also indicates that she knows Cathy miscarried the child she conceived with Chris. Distraught by this news, Cathy agrees to marry Julian Marquet, a man in her dance company who has been in pursuit of her.

Back in South Carolina, as Mrs. Julian Marquet, Cathy asks Paul about what Amanda said. He tells her that Julia was in a permanent vegetative state from a suicide attempt around the time Paul took them in and died around the time Cathy became intimate with him. Cathy is not certain how she feels but also realizes she has confided in Paul that she and Chris had an incestuous relationship while they were being held captive. Paul vows he still loves her, but even though Cathy now realizes it was a mistake to marry Julian, she feels she must honor that commitment. Julian is jealous and possessive, abusive toward Cathy, unfaithful to her, and does not allow her to see Paul or Chris. Chris wants Cathy to leave Julian, but she is pregnant and wants to make the union work. Julian is in an automobile accident and left paralyzed, at least for the time being. Thinking he will never be able to dance again, he takes his own life while in the hospital.

When Cathy gives birth to Jory Marquet, she continues her resolve to ruin her mother’s life. She moves to Virginia with Jory and Carrie to a place near Foxworth Hall. She hires her mother’s second husband, Bart Winslow, to be her lawyer under the pretense of collecting Julian’s insurance. While this is happening, Carrie meets Alex with whom she begins a relationship, but he soon he announces his intent to become a minister. Following a suicide attempt, Carrie tells Cathy that she saw their mother on the street and was rejected by her, increasing Carrie’s feelings toward herself that she must be evil and unworthy. Carrie dies, strengthening Cathy’s hope for revenge and leading to a blackmail plot and a plan to steal away her husband, Bart.

Although her interest in Bart was prompted by revenge, Cathy and Bart fall in love with each other. She becomes pregnant, and Bart is torn between his wife (Corrine, Cathy’s mother) and Cathy. Cathy eventually reveals all that has gone on. Corrine says that she herself is a victim because her father knew his grandchildren were being kept hidden and he wanted them to die. She claims she was making the children gradually become sick so she could sneak them out. Corrine suffers a breakdown and sets Foxworth Hall on fire. She, Cathy, and Chris escape but Bart does not. In time, Cathy marries Paul who dies not long after. He tells Cathy that she should be with Chris who still loves her. Cathy and Chris get together and move to California. The tale ends with Cathy fearing what could one day happen should their secret become known.