This story took place in Gladstone, Pennsylvania. The year is 1957. The Dollanganger family receives horrible news about their father and husband who died in a car accident. The mother, Corine, has no work skills and is pushed into debt after her husbands passing. the family is forced to move into her parent home at Foxworth Hall in Virginia.
Corine was estranged from her parents because of something she did at 18. She has to hide the children's existence from her parents. Her fathers fortune is on the line as well. If he finds out about the children she will lose her place in his will. The grandmother finds out about the children but still secludes them to this attic. Their lives are based on imagination and readings from the seldom books they have available. They are scolded often and visited less often. The grandmother ends up poisoning the children with sugared donuts. The children escape and decide to live their life as new beings, without their mother.