Click "here" to link to this book on Amazon. The copy I read was marked "Collector's Edition" and the color scheme is reversed from the copy linked to on Amazon, so page numbers may be slightly off. There is a sticker on the cover of my copy that says "Exclusive New Chapter", which I almost forgot to read since I was so eager to finish I stayed up late and finished on my ereader. The extra chapter is an Epilogue that does not appear in the eBook.
Once again we have two storylines going in one novel. Lately it has become very en vogue to have a storyline in the past and one in a more modern time. (Four out of six books we've read this year bounce around in time: "The Masterpiece", "Black Cake", "The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue", "The Guest List") This book also bounces between a few years time span, but in a unique way. The character of Verity is an author who is unable to complete a series she has been contracted to write, so Lowen is hired to finish the series. She is given access to Verity's office in order to find notes and outlines of planned novels in the series, but she also finds a draft of an auto-biography Verity has written. Throughout the main novel, Lowen reads chapters of the auto-biography, which are printed full-page, regular-font in the novel - set apart by the chapter heading in a different style. So instead of bouncing between fifty or so years, like other novels, this novel bounces between fictional reality and fictional auto-biography.
On a scale of 1 - 5
Sex - Ch. 2, several refs. to the sexual relationship between Lowen and her agent, Corey. Oral sex (ep. 86 & p. 335-336, among other examples), references to sex being so intense that one partner bit the headboard (multiple times) to stifle the screams (Ch. 12, ep. 169)
Religion - a reference to "The Five Love Languages" in a sexual way (p. 183)
Gruesome - The opening scene is particularly gruesome as the main characters witness a pedestrian get run over. (ep. 1) A father pulls his young child's body from the water after a drowning. (ep. 8) A boy gets cut with a knife and needs stitches.
Suspense - lots of suspense trying to figure out who or what is causing things to happen in the house, or determine if they are actually happening or just a figment of someone's imagination. It is like trying to keep track of north when riding on The Scrambler.
Morality - a character loosely wishes she still had the morphine from her recently deceased mother. (Ch. 1, ep. 10), an anecdote at the beginning of Ch. 5 about having sex with a comatose person, a man sleeps with a woman while his wife is upstairs, a mortal sin is committed (perhaps twice)
Traditional - in the auto-biography draft, there are many, many examples of the "f" word, lots of references to sex and drinking and even of theft. These things also appear in the regular novel, but with less frequency and severity. I did not find any instances of LGBTQetc.
True confession: I keep a book by the toilet so I can use every spare minute to read. I stand them on the tile floor and lean them against the wall to wait for my return. With this book, and Colleen Hoover's large picture on the back cover, I found it a little creepy to sit down and have her looking at me, so I always made sure to put the back of the book towards the wall. It was extra creepy because in my head, I pictured Colleen Hoover as Verity. Ironically, in the bonus chapter (Epilogue), there is a bit about Jeremy reading a book and Lowen being bothered by the author staring at her from the back cover. (p. 308)
In the beginning of the novel, Lowen reveals that she used to date her agent, Corey. It seems like it might be something that affects the story later, but it really doesn't. In fact, I'd all but forgotten about Corey until she tells Jeremy about him in chapter 19. It is unclear why it was necessary to establish this extra level of relationship between Lowen and Corey. It almost feels like Hoover changed direction and forgot to go back and clean up the crumbs.
Question: Lowen asked Jeremy what he had seen that was worse than seeing a man's skull get crushed, and after his answer, she regretted asking. (Ch. 1, ep. 8) Have you ever regretted being curious about something or someone?
Question: What was the significance of Lowen and Corey's past relationship? How did it affect the story's outcome? In Ch. 2 Lowen tells us she is used to burying her irritation when it comes to Corey. How does this information provide insight into her character? How do those insights shape your understanding of her actions later in the story?
Question: When life got rough, Lowen would console herself by recognizing that at least she wasn't married to Amos (her "boyfriend in [her] early twenties...who liked being choked" ep. 34) Do you have any markers that you compare your current life against?
Question: When Lowen met Verity's nurse, April said she thought Lowen would be older. (ref. Ch. 4, ep. 52) Lowen wasn't sure if it was an insult or an accusation, but she just smiled and said "good to meet you". What's the strangest comment you've ever had made at you? How did you respond?
Question: Jeremy and Verity had a meet-cute. (ref. p. 66) Do you have a cute story about how you met your spouse? Do you believe in love at first sight? Verity says, "It isn't really love at first sight until you've been with the person long enough for it to become love at first sight." (p. 73)
Recall: Lowen enjoyed watching Crew help Jeremy with the dock deconstruction. (Ch. 6, ep. 98) What did you enjoy watching your husband and kids do?
Question: Are there any villainous authors that you would be scared to meet?
Question: Lowen thinks reading the manuscript is wrong (end Ch. 11) but it was better than actually doing something physical. How wrong was she to read the manuscript? Lowen was disturbed by the manuscript, but she kept reading. What book has scared you but you kept reading? She decided not to show the manuscript to Jeremy (Ch. 20, ep. 266) because she didn't want to open old wounds. What would you have shown it to Jeremy? What about the letter? Should Lowen have let Jeremy see the letter? What does it say about the hold he has on women, that they are willing to swallow things (sexual, letters) because they love him? (Ch. 25, ep. 313)
Question: Verity had a premonition that something would happen to Chastin. (p. 184) Did you ever have a premonition about your child?
Question: Jeremy doesn't like to read Verity's books, "Because it was hard for me to fathom that it all came from her imagination." (p. 193) What does this say about Colleen Hoover?
Discuss: Lowen says, "there's too much inside me that wants to be more than his friend, which means we can't be friends at all. If an attraction is present between two people, those two people can only be one of two things. Involved or not involved. There is no in between." (p. 190) Do you agree? What if the attraction is one-sided? What if geography separates the people?
Question: Lowen thought Verity was moving. What did you think? How did you explain the knife missing, the TV muting, Lowen seeing Verity at the top of the stairs, Crew waving at the window, the bedroom door locking from the outside, etc. Lowen thought she scared Verity (because she wet herself). (p. 229) How did you interpret Verity's bodily function?
Discuss: What did you believe was the real truth? or What did you want to be the real truth? Things to consider in reaching your conclusion: Why would Jeremy even have gone into Verity's office and read what was on her laptop when he said he doesn't like to read her work? If "So Be It" was Verity's attempt to help other authors "master their craft" (p. 290) why was there no introduction or instruction? The author's note (p. 61) talks about the integrity of an autobiography, but still no instruction. (In the letter she mentions that she thought she might add an Epilogue in the future, which still doesn't answer the problem of the instruction to the reader.) If the intensity of the sex was an exaggeration, why did Lowen see the teeth marks on the head board? (ep. 169) Did Jeremy feel obligated to care for Verity because his attempt to kill her in the car failed, or did he care for her because he loved her so much? If he still loved her so much, had he actually read "So Be It" and believed it? Whether or not "So Be It" was an exaggeration, Verity faked the coma and injuries. Lowen was in the office less than half a day and found "So Be It" yet Verity said she couldn't remember where she left it and had even gone into the basement and gone through boxes but never found it. Did Jeremy set it up for Lowen to find "So Be It"? If he knew about the manuscript, why did he react the way he did when Lowen tried to get Verity to move? Before Lowen gave Jeremy the manuscript, he gave her a suitcase and asked her to leave (Ch. 22, ep. 283).
Question: Were you surprised that Jeremy had read Lowen's book? Did you believe that he had? (end Ch. 15, p. 196)
Discuss: The original story ends with a question: No matter which way I look at it, it's clear that Verity was a master at manipulating the truth. The only question that remains is: Which truth was she manipulating? (Ch. 25, ep. 314, loc 3679)
In the Bonus Chapter / Epilogue, Jeremy and Lowen move to a different state, drop the "Crawford" last name, and build a new life with Crew and their new baby, Nova. But one of the women from the grocery store just happens to be on the beach one day. Their past almost catches them. The woman must be sileneced. And Lowen comes to the realization that she must remain useful to Jeremy because otherwise he would have to silence her too, since she is an accomplice. Crew's mental state also comes into question and Lowen begins to question her own sanity as her emotions war between being scared of and feeling protected by Jeremy. (p. 332) Who do you think is the biggest manipulator in this story?
Meet at Steak 'n Shake like the night that Jeremy and Verity first met. (p. 72)
Serve: bottles of Dr. Pepper, like Crew got out of the refrigerator (Ch. 4, ep. 48)
Serve: Moscow Mules, like Verity drank at the charity event (Pg. 64)
Serve: Serve pizza like Jeremy and Lowen had on her first night at the house. (p. 76)
Serve: Chicken and Dumplings - the fifth meal Verity cooked in the new house and the one Jeremy threw against the wall. ("So Be It" Ch. 9, ePg. 201)