Trigger warning: The following article will mention sexual assault, grooming, and incest. If any of these things would be upsetting to you, I recommend you not proceed with this article.
The tragic series of the Casteel family as told through five books by VC Andrews between 1979 and 1990 was recently given a decent adaptation to the small screen. This isn’t the first time Lifetime has adapted VC Andrews’ books, previously having done My Sweet Audrina as well as the Flowers in the Attic series.
Overall, the story was done due justice and given a more serious look at certain aspects than previous VC Andrews stories brought to the screen. The main character for most of the story, Heaven Casteel, must face the realization of how classism and money do not define whether or not one may be civilized as she moves from a very poor backwoods “hillbilly” family to find her mother’s family was very wealthy and privileged. As she meets her rich relatives and is integrated more with their life, she comes to discover dark secrets.
Specifically the main terrible secret, that her abusive father Luke Casteel wasn’t her biological father, but rather was a product of an assault by her step-grandfather, Tony Tatterton, who preyed on her mother when she was a teenager. Thankfully, all movies make a point to call what Tony did what it actually is- sexual molestation of a child he was supposed to protect and help raise. The movies don’t make him a sympathetic character, and make a point to say that despite all his education, money, and social status he “acted no better than a common hillbilly.”
We get to follow Heaven as she deals with these emotions and processes how to build a good life for herself and others, as well as follow Heaven’s daughter Annie to see Tony finally face his comeuppance for his disgusting actions. We also are given a prequel that shows exactly what happened between Tony and Heaven’s mother all those years ago, which to its credit shows accurate representation of grooming and the warning signs towards it.
While most of the events of the books took place in the movie, there were a few interesting choices made to adapt the books. The timing was of course much quicker, even removing certain key establishment of characters or events in the story altogether. The biggest change and biggest complaint for fans is having a severely different appearance of the heroines, which is certainly a fair criticism. None of the heroines look like they could be related, despite the books claiming all three were nearly identical.
I will say this for victims of sexual trauma, especially child sexual trauma: I would skip this series if I were you. However, if you’re unaffected by such subjects and find an interest in a story about class, revenge, and finding what truly matters in life, Lifetime’s depiction of The Casteel Family Saga is very well done. The movies are available at mylifetime.com for anyone who is interested.