Themes are the fundamental and often universal ideas explored in a literary work.

Truth and Deception

Throughout Verity, the concept of truth is always in flux. One of the book's central arguments is that there are always different ways of interpreting events and that one person’s truth rarely encompasses the whole of a situation.  

From the beginning, the complex question of truth as it relates to personal identity takes center stage. After Verity’s accident, Lowen is hired to write her novels in her place. Although the press that publishes them and Verity’s husband make it clear to the public that another writer will be continuing the series, it’s not truly “Verity’s” work. Lowen also publishes under a pen name, Laura Chase, as a way of obscuring her true identity. 

Verity is so comfortable with deception that she spends most of the novel pretending to be brain-damaged and semi-conscious. Because she wants to test Jeremy's love for her and find a way to run away with Crew, she fakes the extent of her injuries and waits for an opportunity to compromise Jeremy and Lowen. Verity’s actions throughout the novel are intended to gaslight and destabilize Lowen, jeopardizing her position in the Crawford house. It's part of the novel’s central irony that her name is “Verity,” which comes from the Latin word veritas, or “truth.” 

When Lowen finds the manuscript of So Be It, Verity’s secret autobiography, the truth of her situation becomes even more tangled. The autobiography paints Verity as a psychopathic killer, while the letter she leaves for Jeremy at the end denies all the events in it, and shows her to be a loving mother and devoted wife. There’s no way for Lowen to know which of these documents is real, and so she chooses the truth that is most convenient for her. She destroys the letter, making sure that no one will ever learn Verity’s version of events but her.  

As the story unfolds, it becomes increasingly unclear what is true and what is fabricated. Verity seems to be in a semi-comatose state, but other events suggest that she’s up and walking around the house. Her son, Crew, is reticent about his interactions with his mother and about the deaths of his sisters, but won’t explain why. Jeremy is silent about the actual state of his marriage until after he and Lowen begin their physical affair. Almost every relationship in the book is based on incomplete truths like these. 

Obsession and Control 

Various characters in the book show signs of obsession, whether it's related to their work, their personal relationships, or uncovering the truths and deceptions that surround them. 

According to So Be It, Verity is obsessed with her husband. She desires nothing more than to be completely in control of him and be the sole recipient of his adoration. The love she has for Jeremy is intense and specific, as she learns his behaviors, and adjusts her own to please him. She doesn't want him to love anyone else more than he loves her, and she will do almost anything to preserve his attention when her twin daughters threaten to eclipse her. Verity, in real life, seems similarly obsessed, but according to her shocking letter the new focus of her obsession is “saving” Crew, and re–establishing a safe home for them outside Jeremy’s control.  

Lowen becomes obsessed with Verity as she researches her work. Her job at the Crawford house is to learn to write in the style and tone Verity used in order to complete her book series. She dives into this with gusto, but her investigations lead her to discover Verity’s secret “autobiographical” novel, So Be It. Instead of repulsing her, it fascinates her, and Lowen reads the autobiography with hungry attention. As she falls in love with Jeremy, her feelings for him and her obsession with Verity become painfully entangled. She wants to replace Verity in his heart completely. For example, when she and Jeremy have sex in the bed Jeremy and Verity shared, Lowen makes a point of biting down on the headboard and leaving bite marks that are deeper than those that Verity left. She wants desperately to exceed Verity in every way and to discover the truth of the strange situation she’s been placed in.  

The novel’s end leaves Lowen’s obsession unresolved, as it ends with a rhetorical question that points to a continuing obsession with Jeremy’s dead wife. It is implied that the ghost of Verity’s deeds will stay with her and continue to have power over her, as she can never learn the actual truth.  

Grief and Loss

Characters in the novel deal with significant grief and trauma, impacting their psychological states and influencing the trajectory of the story. As the novel begins, Lowen is engulfed by the numbing sorrow of losing her mother. Her personal grief becomes a lens through which she first navigates the many layers of suffering and loss that the Crawford family lives with. 

Jeremy Crawford and his son Crew are forced to grieve the loss of a wife and mother while Verity is still alive. The accident that left her apparently comatose appears to have robbed her of all mental faculties, so she’s both absent and present. Both are also grieving the loss of the twins Harper and Chastin, who died at a very young age and under dubious circumstances.  

The novel’s most intricate exploration of grieving processes happens through Verity’s autobiography, So Be It. On first reading, it appears to be the “true” history of Verity as a psychopathic and callous woman. She describes a life full of the fear of losing her husband’s love, which ruins her marriage and contributes to the death of Harper Crawford. However, the letter that Lowen finds at the end of the novel paints a very different picture. In the letter, Verity explains that the autobiography was an exercise in processing her grief. In her letter, Verity says that she never actually did most of the things the autobiography claims. It’s left unclear to the reader whether the letter or the autobiography is truthful.  

By the end of the book, Hoover’s characters are faced with another, more complex kind of grief. Having killed Verity, Jeremy and Lowen are theoretically free to begin a life together without her influence. This is complicated by the fact that the manner of her death and—for Lowen—the mystery that hangs over it from the letter make it difficult to disengage. If Lowen were to disclose the contents of the letter, she knows that Jeremy and Crew might be confronted with re–experiencing the loss of Verity. Lowen chooses to bear the knowledge of having potentially aided in the murder of a mostly innocent woman completely alone.