Lowen Ashleigh is a struggling writer on the brink of financial ruin when she accepts the job offer of a lifetime. Jeremy Crawford, husband of bestselling author Verity Crawford, has hired Lowen to complete the remaining books in a successful series his injured wife is unable to finish.
Lowen arrives at the Crawford home, ready to sort through years of Verity’s notes and outlines, hoping to find enough material to get her started. What Lowen doesn’t expect to uncover in the chaotic office is an unfinished autobiography Verity never intended for anyone to read. Page after page of bone-chilling admissions, including Verity’s recollection of what really happened the day her daughter died.
Lowen decides to keep the manuscript hidden from Jeremy, knowing its contents would devastate the already grieving father. But as Lowen’s feelings for Jeremy begin to intensify, she recognizes all the ways she could benefit if he were to read his wife’s words. After all, no matter how devoted Jeremy is to his injured wife, a truth this horrifying would make it impossible for him to continue to love her.
Me, rollerblading into my therapist’s office with sunglasses and a piña colada and dropping this book on the desk with a resounding thud: we need to discuss this!
Why read Verity when you can just pull out a Ouija board and summon a demon? I’m sure it’ll have the same effect. I finished this book feeling completely sapped of life, as if I’ve been bleeding freely for the past few hours instead of simply reading. I wish I could just shake my head to dissolve the memory of that ending, to disarrange it somehow. Because, of all the things I’d braced myself for, that did not cross my mind.
So, what’s this book about?
Lowen Ashleigh is set free from the long tedium of her daily life when she’s employed by Jeremy Crawford to ghostwrite the remaining books in a popular series his wife, Verity, is unable to finish due to an unfortunate accident. Lowe acquiesces in the spirit of hope: that this opportunity would help her acquire some small measure of celebrity that would be pure oxygen to the fire of her career. But nothing prepares Lowe for the purity of dread that clamps down her like a vise when she stumbles upon Verity’s autobiography. Verity’s secrets soon take up so much space in the house that there is barely any room left for Lowe’s body. Now she has to force what she’s reading into what she knew of Verity, Jeremy, and their lives together. She has to weave it in among what she expected.
Sooner or later, the whole truth would spill, and this fraught waiting would come to an end—with havoc, and screaming, and loss.
“After all, this is a house full of Chronics. The next tragedy is already long overdue.”
I relish books that make me backtrack my own declarations of preference, the ones that catch me completely off-guard, astonish me, keep me on my toes. Verity is not at all what I expected, and I think it is all the better for it. I’d gone on in mystery, but not without speculation and a vast deal of skepticism. I made the mistake of perceiving this book through the haze of my opinions on Hoover’s early books, and it didn’t look quite like I remembered. I’ve never been happier to be so astronomically wrong, because this book absolutely lives up to the buzz.
Verity is a fiendishly clever, mind-bending whirligig of a book. It’s a hall of mirrors where everything is a vacant reflection, including the people who live there. Hoover lures and tricks and sets obstacles to drive you into her toils. She wields her unreliable characters to stunning effect, confounding, disturbing and delighting in turn, and draws you into a world where illusion informs reality and time enfolds hauntingly. Not only is nothing what it seems, it’s not even what it seems after it’s been revealed to be not what it seems. I was entrapped in this story long before I even realized that the net has been cast.
The energy in this book is wild, barely controllable yet perfectly controlled. Hoover drapes Lowe’s unease and confusion over the reader by keeping us in the same disconcerting darkness. Danger pulses all around. Every page is very thin ice to skate on. You can scarcely see the freshly hideous future taking shape ahead of you, yet you can feel it all the same. I have a quirk of prudence in me that’s hard to break and if I were Lowe, I’d have gotten the hell out of that place. I couldn’t fathom how her fear couldn’t properly kindle. I’d have been impressed if I weren’t too distressed and I’d have appreciated her courage if I weren’t too preoccupied repeating a litany of “GET OUT OF THERE” in my head.
And, oh my God, the ending. It struck me backhanded. Verity offers you no solidity of truth that you could hold in your hands. Even as I was reading the last chapter, I was mining it for clues, trying to make sense of something so innately senseless. Everything I’ve read up until that point felt like a false memory, and I was left shaking my fist at the whole book for leaving me on such a note as it did.
In conclusion, stories like Verity, are the reason I’m going to be one of those parents in their forties that make their kids go to sleep at 6pm so they can drink scotch in the bath and think about that book they read back in 2018.