Summary: Chapters 3-4, and So Be It Chapter 1

Chapter 3 

Chapter 3 begins with Lowen and Corey in her apartment, celebrating the deal with a halfhearted champagne toast. Lowen has just received an eviction notice and is feeling morose. She mentions a previous partner who had a fetish for being choked as she reflects on how dissatisfied she was with her relationship with Corey. Corey unsettles her—after she tells him she’s been invited to stay at Jeremy’s house—by telling her that he is worried Jeremy is not all he seems. He points out that Jeremy’s two daughters both died young and in mysterious circumstances, and his wife is now comatose following an unexplained accident and a long absence from public life. Lowen is briefly unnerved by this, but then remembers that Corey had known her mother was dying and hadn’t checked in with her once. She realizes he’s not concerned, just jealous of Jeremy, and ushers him out.  

Chapter 4  

Lowen starts her journey to Vermont. As she drives to the Crawford house to begin her work with Verity’s manuscripts, she plays the audiobook of the first novel in Verity’s series to entertain herself. She barely notices the six hours pass as she listens because the book is so startlingly good. She feels more insecure than ever, even though she enjoyed it. As she pulls up to the house, Lowen instructs herself to snap out of her funk, and is able to do so in time to pay attention to her surroundings. The house is enormous and imposing, covered with ivy, and made of austere gray rock. It’s so big that she thinks her apartment would be smaller than its entrance hall. She recalls her mother saying that houses have souls, and thinks to herself that the soul of this house seems dark and ominous. 

The first person she meets when she pulls up to the house is the Crawfords’ son, Crew. He startles her as he stands right next to her car window and stares in. She and Crew have a brief, awkward interaction, and she texts Jeremy to tell him she has arrived. He comes down and lets her in, and then heads outside to get her suitcase, warning her that the 5-year-old Crew is smarter than he looks. 

From the outset, Lowen’s time in the Crawford house is framed as an invasion into Jeremy and Verity’s marital relationship. Jeremy shows Lowen to her room, which had previously been the primary bedroom he had shared with his wife. Lowen feels uncomfortable about sleeping in the Crawford’s bed. She observes that the headboard has multiple toothmarks along its edge, and wonders how intense Jeremy and Verity’s sex life must have been to provoke the biting. She asks Jeremy if the door locks, but doesn’t feel comfortable telling him that she would prefer a room that did. After some small talk, Jeremy asks her if she has a pen name in order to protect her privacy, as he wants to introduce her to Verity’s nurse. Lowen tells him that she doesn’t, and the two use a hackneyed formula to come up with one. They decide she’ll go by “Laura Chase.” 

As they enter, Lowen gets her first look at Verity and sees that she is utterly unresponsive to anything that is happening around her. Jeremy introduces her to April, the nurse, and then shows her Verity’s office. It’s crammed with books and papers and extremely disorganized. As she sorts through the sixth box of papers she finds, she picks up a manuscript with a title she doesn’t recognize. It’s called So Be It, and Lowen quickly realizes it’s an autobiography. She briefly considers not reading it, but then decides she needs to in order to understand Verity’s mental processes.  

So Be It, Chapter 1  

At this point, Hoover introduces the book–within–a–book of Verity: page 61 is the first page of Verity’s autobiography, So Be It. Before she begins telling her story, however, Verity writes a note to the reader informing them that she hates it when autobiographies paint an idealized picture of their authors. She advocates for an autobiography to be as visceral and truthful as possible, and that any autobiography which encourages a reader to like an author is not doing its job adequately. She promises to deliver on this for her reader, and to tell a story that will hurt and disgust them, but which they’ll feel compelled to read. 

The first chapter starts with an epigraph by the poet Charles Bukowski, and begins to tell the story of how Verity and Jeremy met. She writes that they met at a party, which she was only attending because it offered free alcohol and the chance to find a wealthy person to sleep with. She is wearing a dress that she stole, and which she liked because she believed it would appeal to men for its ease of removal. Her ploys to get Jeremy’s attention work, and the two leave the party together. 

When they leave, Jeremy ushers Verity into a limousine. She’s briefly impressed, before he tells her that it actually isn’t his car. Both admit that they didn’t belong at the party, and begin kissing and touching more seriously. They’re interrupted by the actual owner of the car returning, and they flee the scene to Jeremy’s actual car. Verity is charmed that he drives an ancient Honda Civic, and that he takes her to a restaurant before trying to have sex with her. He fondles Verity under the table while they eat, but refuses to bring her to a climax in the restaurant. She demands he take her home, and he obliges. The two return to Jeremy’s apartment, where they have passionate sex over a period of several days. Verity describes their bond as being immediate and highly intense, and the pair don’t leave the apartment for several days. Everything seems to be going well, until Verity foreshadows that this passionate intensity was only present until Jeremy found something that mattered to him more than she did. 


In these chapters, Hoover highlights the complex dynamics that are already coming to light between some of the characters during the Pantem Press meeting. In particular, she focuses on Lowen's wariness of Corey. Her distrust in him is rooted not only in his “a**hole” behavior during their romantic relationship, but also in his clear detachment from her emotional struggles. Corey is an opportunist who takes the best of what is in front of him and doesn’t pay attention to much else. It’s telling that the central problem in their dating life was that Corey fell in love with a character Lowen wrote, and not Lowen herself. This foreshadows the novel’s motif of doubling, suggesting that the connection between fiction and reality is an uncomfortably close one. Corey's personality also contrasts sharply with that of Jeremy. While Corey seems indifferent and opportunistic, Jeremy’s introduction makes him seem heroic and emotionally complex.  

Jeremy’s insistence on her taking up the writing project—coupled with the tantalizing offer of a hefty sum and a secluded writing environment—puts Lowen in a quandary. Eventually, she succumbs to the weight of her circumstances and accepts the deal. Lowen and Corey’s discussion back at her apartment provides context for both Lowen’s coldness and their uncomfortably strained relationship. Their continued partnership only seems to work because neither Lowen nor Corey is capable of feeling anything intensely. Lowen is lost in grief for her recently deceased mother, and Corey is detached from feeling, only able to love a fictional heroine. Corey says he is looking out for her when he mentions his concerns that Jeremy might be behind the deaths of his family members, but Lowen doesn’t take the warning seriously. She’s too used to Corey’s intentions being purely self-interested to believe in his concerns. To her, Corey's insinuations about Jeremy's allegedly dark past appear to be a blend of genuine concern and petty jealousy. While these remarks sow seeds of doubt in Lowen's mind regarding Jeremy's character, she promptly dismisses them, attributing Corey's skepticism to bitterness stemming from their ended relationship. She hopes that their parting will allow their relationship to finally become a purely professional one, even though it’s clearly emotionally charged and awkward. At this stage in the novel, Lowen’s interpretation of people’s behavior seems unreliable at best and often actually misguided. 

When she arrives at the Vermont house Lowen is immediately alarmed by its “soul,” noting that the building feels unfriendly, and she doesn’t feel welcome. Although the Crawford residence already has a miasma of death looming over it from the passing of Harper and Chastin, its very appearance seems to foreshadow bad things ahead. The ivy that climbs over it looks “like a cancer” to Lowen, and she begins to wonder if she has made the right decision even more deeply as she contemplates the blood-red front door. When she meets Verity, it confirms her initial impression. Verity’s stillness and absence are uncanny, especially as she doesn't look physically ill. Lowen is so unnerved that she actually has chills on her arms when she sees Jeremy and Crew interacting with her. When she gets to Verity’s office, the impression that she gets of Verity being a shell is further emphasized. The woman she had just met was completely vacant, but Lowen is suddenly enfolded in the evidence of her extremely sharp and active intellect. Surrounded by Verity’s towering piles of books and papers, Lowen compares her shabby apartment and her lack of resources to the “real” author’s den she has entered.  

As Lowen settles into the office, she notes that there are three books left for her to write in Verity’s series The Noble Virtues: these books are intended to be called Courage, Truth, and Honor. Although it wouldn’t be clear to the reader at this early point, this passage is full of dramatic irony. This is due to the juxtaposition of the series title and the virtues it represents against the actual character of the author, Verity. Naming her work after virtues might lead a reader to think that Verity was an expert in being virtuous. However, this is rapidly shown to the far from reality: she is certainly not “truthful,” at the very least. These titles and the series itself invoke the idea that Verity should be associated with moral integrity and righteousness, when in fact the opposite is later revealed to be the case.