“Some families are lucky enough to never experience a single tragedy. But then there are those families that seem to have tragedies waiting on the back burner. What can go wrong, goes wrong. And then gets worse,” (Hoover 31).
Things aren’t looking good for Lowen Ashleigh. Her mother died a few months before, her books aren’t selling, and she’s about to be evicted from her apartment. But after a strange meeting with her agent, Lowen learns she has been hired by Jeremy Crawford, husband of bestselling author Verity Crawford, to finish writing the remaining books in her series after Verity is injured in an accident and unable to finish them. Lowen goes to stay in the Crawford house for a few days, looking for notes and outlines in Verity’s disorganized office, and instead finds Verity’s unfinished autobiography that details the deaths of her twin daughters and other disturbing truths. Lowen knows she shouldn’t read it, but she can’t stop herself, and as she grows more disturbed by Verity’s confessions, she wonders what she should do with the manuscript, keep the truth hidden or tell Jeremy?
I have things to say, so spoiler warning because my review of Verity will spoil parts of the book. If you don’t want that skip this, and come back after you’ve read it.
This book went crazy on BookTok, so it’s been on my radar for a while. I’ve been curious about why it’s so popular, but not curious enough to actually buy it. The holds list at my library was incredibly long, so I settled for waiting until the hype (eventually, someday, maybe) died down. But then I stumbled upon an express copy at the library, it seemed fated, so I read Verity.
And, I mean, I get the hype. But it wasn’t for me.
I understand why it’s popular. There’s a lot of sex, an arguably excessive amount of sex, which I didn’t have an issue with. Was it annoying reading about how Verity worshipped her husband’s dick? Yes. However, Hoover chiefly writes in romance, so the excessive (and annoying) sex scenes make sense when you look at the genre she writes from most often. It also has a slight creepy factor to it that attempts to make it an almost modern Gothic. Attempts to, but ultimately fails at.
And that’s the thing about Verity, it tries to be a thriller, it tries to be a horror story, it tries to be a creepy mystery but it only slightly hits the mark on all these things. It has a (literally) killer opening line, and some quotable parts (like the quote I shared above) but ultimately doesn’t achieve anything it sets out to do. Lowen and Jeremy are flat characters. While Hoover builds a lot of mystery around Lowen, her upbringing, and the death of her mother, there’s no big revelation about why she is the way she is, why she’s such a loner and seems to have an overall dislike of people. We don’t even know anything about the books she writes, only that they’re similar to Verity’s and we know the title of her first one (Open Window, I think?). And while I loved Jeremy’s quote about being a “Chronic” (a person who has and continues to experience many tragedies in their lives, which I sadly relate too) Jeremy doesn’t read like a person who has experienced tragedy, grief, or trauma. This is a man who within a year has had his twin daughters die and his wife attempt suicide and end up in a brain dead state. While I understand the “resilience” of keeping things normal for his five-year-old son, it isn’t realistic. Even the best of parents fall apart, and after that much trauma in such a short amount of time Jeremy shouldn’t be as well adjusted as he is. It just isn’t realistic.
And the letter.
Warning again, because here come the big spoilers. Also spoilers for Gone Girl if you somehow don’t know anything about that.
The letter is, arguably, what people talk about most in their love of Verity, and what the entire novel hinges on to make it memorable. Nine months after Verity’s death, a heavily pregnant Lowen goes with Jeremy and Crew to finish getting rid of the things in the old house as they move on with their lives. In Verity’s room, Lowen finds a VERY long letter in which Verity reveals that the autobiography Lowen found was actually a writing exercise encouraged by her agent to get into the deranged headspace of her protagonists. Verity explains that Jeremy found the manuscript and attempted to kill her, put her in the car and in the accident making it look like she was trying to kill herself as she implied she would in the endinfg of her manuscript. Lowen destroys the letter, disturbed that she and Jeremy are complicit in killing Verity who was never evil but an innocent woman. Or was she? Lowen acknowledges that all they have are Verity’s words, that the letter could be just as fake as she’s claiming the manuscript was and so we will never know.
And it just isn’t done well.
There are many books that have pulled this twist off excellently, the first that comes to mind being Gone Girl. I remember when I first read that book and how completely shocked I was by the revelation that Amy was alive and that her journal was fabricated. Flynn did that well and completely subverted my expectations from what was going to happen. But Hoover doesn’t succeed in this. For one thing, the letter is way too long. Even though Verity explains she wrote it when Jeremy and Lowen first had sex and she locked them in the master bedroom, it’s still a lengthy letter.
One of the main themes that gets repeated by Lowen at the beginning of Verity is how an author is not their words, how she is mistaken for being a worse person than she is because of the books she writes and that the voice she writes in isn’t who she is as a person. Hoover did this intentionally so that when we read Verity’s manuscript, reader’s are supposed to think like Lowen that that is who Verity is, especially because what she’s reading is an apparent autobiography. And then of course the letter, which is supposed to turn that on it’s head and bring about the theme of writing vs writer and how we only ever had Verity’s words, we have no idea who she was as a person. I get it. But Hoover just doesn’t do this well.
I understand why Verity is popular, but this story has been told in much better books by more experienced authors to the genre. Needless to say, I am not going to be joining Colleen Hoover’s CoHorts.
Last Thoughts and Spoilers:
- Make fun of me if you want, but I don’t think biting a headboard during sex is sexy. I sort of understand what Hoover was going for, but all I could think was what if you broke your tooth on the headboard. Dentists are expensive and not everyone has coverage!
- Lowen and Crew eating peanut butter crackers was a very small part of the book, but I thought the inclusion of peanut butter was weird. I get that your anaphylactic peanut allergy daughter is dead, but she literally DIED because of her allergy! I wouldn’t want peanuts/peanut butter ANYWHERE near me if that happened, talk about a trigger!
- I feel like Hoover was trying to set up that Lowen killed her mother by faking that she asphyxiated herself. There were some hints that her and her mother’s relationship was bad, and the suggestion of it when killing Verity seemed like Hoover was implying something that was just never revealed. I like when things are vague, but they have to be vague to a point where audiences can piece together what the author is laying out, and Hoover doesn’t do that.
- What kind of freaking name is Chastin?
- I was going to make fun of the name Lowen too but then I remembered it was used in The Simpsons and my friends younger sister is named Lowen, so it didn’t seem fair.
Publication: December 7th 2018
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
Pages: 336 pages (Paperback)
Genre: Fiction, Mystery, Thriller, Romance
My Rating: ⛤⛤⛤
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.