The book opens on a Saturday morning. A car stops near an abandoned mint green bike with four green apples spilled over next to it. The driver gets out and puts the bike in his trunk. He plans on gifting it to his wife. However, 20 minutes later the man is killed in a head-on collision with a semi due to a difficult-to-see stop sign. The apples rot.
Chapter 1 (Now)
The Delaney siblings — Brooke (29), Troy (early 30s), Logan (37), Amy (39) — sit at a café discussing their mother Joy Delaney (née Becker) leaving a little over a week ago. She texted them before leaving, rode off on her new bike and disappeared. They’ve tried calling and texting their mother since then, but to no avail.
They haven’t reported it to the police yet, since they know the police will suspect their father, Stan, especially because Stan and Joy had argued before she left. They also wonder if they should contact someone named Savannah Pagonis.
Chapters 2 – 3 (Last September)
(From here on out, the book jumps back and forth from past to present.)
Flashback to last September. Joy Delaney, 69, is at home on a Tuesday night with her husband, Stan, and their dog Steffi. Currently, Joy is listening to a podcast about migraines since Brooke has suffered from them since childhood. She still feels bad that she had initially dismissed Brooke’s complaints as a child when they first started. Last night, Joy had attended the first session of a memoir-writing evening class she was attending to accompany her widowed neighbor, Caro.
Joy originally met Stan because they were both tennis champions. Later, the Delaney family ended up running a tennis school, Delaneys Tennis Academy, and tennis club. Now, the tennis school has been sold, and she and Stan are retired.
Joy now longs for grandchildren. Logan has been with his girlfriend Indira Mallick five years now, Brooke (who runs a physiotherapy practice called Delaney’s Physiotherapy) is married to her husband Grant Willis, and the other two of her kids are single.
Joy’s thoughts are interrupted by a knocking on the door. Joy and Stan find a sobbing young woman in her late twenties there, who they don’t recognize. She says her name is Savannah. Savannah has a cut beneath her eyebrow. She says she got into an argument with her boyfriend who “sort of” hit her, so she ran out and into a cab. She’s new in town and doesn’t know anyone else in Sydney. So, asked him to randomly drop her off somewhere, and she came to their house because it “seemed the friendliest”.
After fixing up Savanah’s injury, they agree to let her stay for the night.
Chapter 4 (Now)
In present day, the siblings try to track down Savanah.
The last time they heard from their mother was on Valentine’s Day. She had texted them to say “Going OFF-GRID for a little while! I’m dancing daffodils 21 dog champagne to end Czechoslovakia! Spangle Moot! Love, Mum.” While their mother had indicated she was going “off-grid”, it was still odd for her to be out of touch for so long.
Chapter 5 (Last September)
Flashback to last September. After Joy and Stan set up Savannah in Amy’s room, Stan puts away their (meager) valuables in their room. Alone in their room, they talk about how awful it is that Savannah’s boyfriend hit her. As a boy, Stan had once seen his father knock his mother unconscious by throwing her across the room, and he now still refuses to talk about his father.
Later, Stan is on his iPad (which everyone is surprised he uses because he refuses to own a cell phone) when Joy spots the name “Harry Haddad” on a news item. Harry is their former star student, but he is a touchy subject for them.
Chapters 6 – 7 (Now)
In present day, Barb McMahon, the Delaney’s housekeeper and an old friend, cleans up around the house. Barb started working as a cleaner ten years ago, after her husband Darrin died of a stroke.
It has now been 8 days since Joy unexpectedly went away without mentioning it to Barb. As she cleans, Barb spots Joy’s cell phone under the bed. Barb wonders why Joy would leave without her cell phone. She goes into the kitchen where Troy and Stan are chatting and shows them what she found. Stan is expressionless (and later Barb remarks to people that she found his response “suspicious”).
After Brooke hears about the recovered cell phone, she asks her father how bad their argument was before her mother left.
Chapter 8 (Last September)
Flashback to last September. Brooke is on her way to work, still reeling from the brutal migraine she’d had that weekend. Her husband Grant had moved out six weeks ago. On the news, Brooke hears the news about Harry Haddad. The report says that Harry is planning to return to professional tennis after retiring four years ago due to a shoulder injury. He’s also going to release an autobiography.
Brooke thinks back to how her mother had handled the business of the tennis school and her father had done the coaching. Harry had been his star, but Harry had eventually dumped Stan as a coach. Harry had gone on to win three grand slams, but Stan believes he could have gotten him further. Stan had been blindsided and hurt by being discarded as a coach.
While Harry is now known as a high-profile philanthropist, Brooke mostly remembers how Harry had always been a cheat. He use it as a tactic to “rattle and enrage his opponents”.
Meanwhile, for Brooke’s clinic, things have been stressful since a redevelopment of the area had been causing all the businesses around there to lose customers. The stress over that and her separation from her husband was also contributing to her migraines. The renovations had finally just completed, but by now she’d been informed that this quarter would be “make or break” for her business, so she needed things to go well.
Brooke gets a call from Amy. Amy is the oldest, but she’s also a free spirit who has “no career, no driver’s license, no fixed address and precarious mental health”. On the phone, Amy mentions Grant, and Brooke lies and says that Grant is away camping.
Amy then tells Brooke about a random girl (Savannah) staying with their parents. Amy finds the situation very odd and feels weird about it. Amy reports that Savannah has been there a week now, and they’re “letting her stay there until she ‘finds her feet'”.
Chapters 9 – 10 (Now)
In present day, Amy talks on the phone to Logan about whether they should file a missing persons report. She talks about how their dad has scratches on his face (which their dad says he got climbing through a hedge) which the police may assume are “defensive wounds”. Their dad doesn’t think they need to report it, but Amy disagrees and is headed over to the police station to do it anyway.
The next day, Detective Senior Constable Christina Khoury goes over her notes as she heads over to question Stan along with Constable Ethan Lim. Christina is recently engaged to her fiancée, Nico, and her mind wanders to her bridesmaid dress fitting that’s planned for later that day.
To Ethan, she notes now the missing person, Joy, took no clothes with her and there was no activity on her bank account. Two hours later after talking to Stan, the Delaney house is now sealed and Christina has put in for a crime scene warrant. She is certain that Stan is a liar.
Chapter 11 (Last September)
Flashback to last September. Logan heads to his parents house. Logan has been doing odd jobs around the house ever since his father had suffered a torn ligament on his 70th birthday. Troy (who is well off a-nd drives fancy cars) had offered to pay for things like a gardener or cleaner to handle these things, but Logan was sure their father would find that demeaning.
As Logan attends to various things around the house, he thinks about how his girlfriend Indira had left him, saying that he was too “passive” and that he didn’t want her enough because he didn’t try to make her stay. However, Logan’s view was that Indira should do what she wanted, even if that meant leaving him.
At the house, an unfamiliar woman (Savannah) approaches him and introduces herself. Savannah tells him what his parents are up to and about how Joy had taken her to her hairdresser, Narelle Longford. As they chat, Logan mentions to her that he teaches at a community college.
Logan asks about her injury, and she explains that she and her boyfriend had seen a segment about domestic violence on television that had put her boyfriend into a bad mood. They’d gotten into an argument over nothing (she asked if he’d paid the car registration which he took as being passive aggressive) and things had spiraled.
Logan’s mother soon gets home. Joy asks about Indira, and Logan doesn’t mention anything about the breakup. Instead, he hands her a small gift that Indira had asked him to give to Joy weeks ago. Inside, there is fridge magnet of a yellow flower. Logan notices how his mother looks disappointed for a moment as she opens it. His mother then brightens up and explains that Indira knows she loves yellow gerberas and that they have a fridge magnet that keeps falling off.
When Joy mentions that they’re going to take Savannah to her apartment pick up her stuff while her boyfriend is at work, Logan finds himself getting roped into offering to accompany Savannah. Joy adds that Troy should go with them as well, just in case.
Chapter 12 (Now)
In present day, Logan is being questioned by the police in the lobby of the community college where he works. The previous days’ search of the Delaney house had yielded little. They ask Logan about his parents’ marriage, pointing out that his father never once tried to call Joy after the left.
Logan insists things were find between them, but he does tell them that his mother seemed to be feeling a little “down” prior to her disappearance. Beyond that, he also mentions that things got complicated for a while because of Savannah.
Chapter 13 (Last September)
Flashback to last September. As she cleans up around the house, Joy thinks about the gift and Indira and given her, but it reminds her of how disappointed she had been when she saw what it was. She had been hoping to find a picture of an ultrasound.
Still, Joy is in high spirits. With Savannah there, Joy and Stan are having more sex (possibly because “they were closing the bedroom door again, which used to be the signal for sex, or maybe Stan’s libido was helped by the sight of a pretty young girl flitting about the place?”).
Joy also thinks about how she hadn’t “fully understood how bored she and Stan had been until Savannah arrived on their doorstep”. Savannah also enjoys cooking, whereas Joy dislikes cooking, and has made dinner for them quite a few times.
Brooke calls Joy, upset about them having a stranger staying with them. Brooke also asks Joy about how her dad was reacting to Harry’s news and what Harry might write about Stan in his memoir. Joy tells herself the Delaney’s will just be one short chapter in the book. She tries not to think about things like what happened between her and Elias and whether Harry knew about it or not.
Chapters 14 – 15 (Now)
In present day, the disappearance is now being reported on by the news media, and journalists show up to pester Stan with questions. Police are trying to track down Savannah Pagonis.
Teresa Geer, a former friend of the Delaney family, reads the news about the disappearance and is reminded of their history. Her daughter, Claire, was Troy’s ex-wife, but they had split up five years ago. She considers telling Claire about the news, but decides against it.
(When they were married, Troy and Claire had lived in both the U.S. and Australia. However, after they split, Claire had met her current American husband through one of her American friends, so now Teresa blames Troy for Claire ending up in the U.S.)
Chapter 16 (Last September)
Flashback to last September. Troy, Logan and Savannah head over to her apartment to pick up her stuff. He thinks about how Savannah looked like someone who could be a drug user. He recalls his own “entrepreneurial” activities selling weed in high school and how he’d almost been caught. As they converse with Savannah, Troy tells her that he’s a trader (of financial instruments, commodities, etc.) for work. Savannah comments that he’s a risk-taker. Savannah in turn says that she does random jobs like working retail, etc.
Then, as Troy thinks about Harry Haddad’s upcoming memoir, he remembers how much he had disliked Harry. He once punched Harry in the face for cheating, and his mother had to convince Elias not to call the police.
Troy also thinks about his recent trip to New York. He’d met with Claire who had presented him with a difficult ethical dilemma that he was now trying not to think about.
When they get to Savannah’s apartment, they find themselves in a “hip harbourside neighborhood”, not a random place in the “boondocks” like Troy had imagined. However, Savannah stays in the car, reluctant to get out.
As they wait, Troy thinks about how he’d been the only one of the Delaney children to accept a tennis scholarship to attend a prestigious U.S. university, though they’d all gotten offers. He was so certain that his life choices were superior to his siblings’ and yet he desperately wanted to hear them verbally acknowledge it. It especially irritates him that Troy thinks he’s better than Logan specifically and has always wanted to compete with him, but Logan has no interest in participating in some type of competition with him.
Troy asks Logan if he still plays tennis. Logan says no, because when he starts to play he “starts to care if I win or lose” and that he can’t stand that. However, he still watches tennis on TV. Meanwhile, Troy says that he plays tennis socially, but he can’t stand to watch it. They both understand why this is for them and that tennis is “complicated” for all of them.
They finally check on Savannah, who starts crying. Troy comforts her, and she finally gets out of the car. As they go in, they can tell that that her boyfriend is an artist. They start moving her stuff out, but when they enter the bedroom, they see that her boyfriend is home. He initially thinks they are robbers and offers them money. When he sees Savannah, his demeanor remains calm, and he apologizes for what happened between them.
When the boyfriend tries to approach Savannah, Logan and Troy stop him, and the man looks scared. Troy finds himself thinking that he likes the feeling of being morally superior to this man and also eliciting fear from him.
Chapter 17 (Now)
In present day, Narelle Longford (Joy’s hair stylist) listens as the various clients gossip about Joy’s disappearance. They ask what Narelle knows, but she says little.
However, in her mind, Narelle knows that as someone who knows 30 years worth of Joy’s secrets, she’s certain she has all the information the police need to convict Stan. She tells herself that if Joy’s not back by her next appointment, then she’ll go to the police and tell them everything.
Chapter 18 (Last September)
Flashback to last September. Amy is in her room at the apartment she shares with her flatmates. She thinks about her mother’s memoir class and how she’d be happy to read it if her mother actually managed to write one. Amy’s parents both had “complicated” mothers. Her father in particular has never been able to talk about his childhood.
Amy then thinks about how Brooke started her own practice not too long ago, and she doesn’t understand why Brooke would do that. Growing up, Amy always felt weighed down by the constraints on their lives that their parents’ business created. Amy also thinks that the migraines made Brooke grow up too serious.
As for herself, Amy had decided that “full-time work was not for her”. It made her feel “claustrophobic”. Instead, she does a few shifts a weeks as a taste tester/”sensory evaluator”. She also does some product testing work as well. Amy has no savings and no furniture.
Amy’s therapists thought she had “ADHD or OCD, depression or anxiety or most likely both, a nervous disorder, a mood disorder, a personality disorder, maybe even a bipolar affective disorder”. Her current therapist, Roger, calls him self a “counsellor” and says he thinks “labels are a distraction”.
Amy is in bed when there’s a knock on her door from Simon Barrington, one of her many flatmates. Simon had recently been dumped by his girlfriend, and Amy knew he was heartbroken and drunk and that it was a bad idea to sleep with him. Still, she opens the door to let him in.
Chapter 19 (Now)
In present day, Detective Christina Khoury is at her desk, looking at a documents recovered from Joy’s computer. Joy has now been gone for 13 days.
The document is from Joy’s memoir-writing class. In it, Joy talks about her mother, Pearl. Joy’s father left them when she was 4, and then he died in a fist fight three years later. After Joy’s father left, they moved in with Pearl’s parents. While Joy grew up without her father, her grandparents loved her and provided her with stability. Joy’s grandfather loved tennis, and Joy came to love tennis as a child. Eventually, she met Stan who also played tennis competitively, but at 22 he suffered a bad Achilles injury. They ended up leaving the circuit and starting their tennis school.
The next document Christina looks at is a record of Joy’s search history, showing that she had been looking up questions about divorce. Ethan also tells Christina that right before Joy sent that final text message to her family, she had been on the phone for 40 minutes with a Dr. Henry Edgeworth, a 49-year-old plastic surgeon. Ethan also notes that there was a huge hailstorm two days after Joy left.
Chapter 20 (Father’s Day in Australia, First Sunday of September)
Flashback to Last September. On the first Sunday of September, it’s Father’s Day in Australia. As Savannah peppers Joy and Stan with questions about their marriage, Joy thinks about the “shameful”, angry moments. She also thinks they are happily married for the most part.
Joy also thinks about how her children “each fervently believed in separate versions of their childhoods that often didn’t match up with Joy’s memories, or each other’s”. They often misremembered things, but “held on tight to their versions” of their memories.
5avannah has told Joy that she grew up in the foster system, and Joy thinks she learned to be good at fitting in in various situations because of it. It occurs to her that Savannah might be cooking for them to ingratiate herself to them. Still, Joy is so happy to not have to cook anymore.
Today, Savannah is cooking lunch for Father’s Day since all the siblings will be around to celebrate. In the kitchen, Stan and Joy see that Savannah has made lovely chocolate brownies, which is what Amy usually brings. However, Amy’s are usually misshapen and too sweet for Joy’s tastes.
Joy and Savannah fret about upsetting Amy, but Stan brushes off their concerns. Joy thinks about how Stan has always fought against catering to Amy’s mental health issues, but in this case Joy has to weigh potentially upsetting Stan versus potentially upsetting Amy. Finally, she tells Savannah that the cookies will be fine.
Chapter 21 (Now)
In present day, Amy offers chocolate brownies to Christina and Ethan who have come to question her about Joy’s disappearance. Amy tells them that she thinks her mother is probably fine, but Christina counters by telling her about her father getting an expensive car detailing the day after her mother disappeared.
Christina also asks if she’s familiar with the name Dr. Henry Edgeworth, but Amy is not. They tell Amy about the phone call and that they’ve been unable to contact him since he appears to be out of the country at a conference. They also say that they’re still unable to track down Savannah. As they ask about Savannah, Amy starts by talking about how the two of them had both made chocolate brownies for father’s day last year.
Chapters 22 – 24 (Father’s Day in Australia, First Sunday of September)
Flashback to Last September, on Australian Father’s Day. Brooke is heading into her parent’s place when her mind turns to her troubled marriage. She plans to explain Grant’s absence by saying he was sick. She recalls how Grant had wanted to separate and his comments about her working too much. Meanwhile, at her clinic, she’d been dealing with cancellations and no-shows.
However, when she sees Logan and he asks about Grant, Brooke finds herself telling him the truth — that they’re having a trial separation. She asks him not to tell anyone else yet, and he agrees.
Logan then tells her about Indira. Brooke asks Logan about Indira — if she wanted a proposal or something else — but Logan just shrugs. Brooke thinks about how “his laid-back philosophy probably charmed his partners for the first five years and then one day they lost their minds”.
Soon, Troy pulls up outside as well in his fancy McLaren and Amy pulls up in an Uber with her brownies in tow.
Some time later, after lunch, the family sits around with plates containing two brownies each. Savannah has spent the while lunch serving everyone, ignoring their protests. Joy is in a good mood, thinking that Savannah’s presence has been a good distraction for Stan from the news about Harry Haddad.
Joy considers how both Indira and Grant are supposedly sick, and she thinks something is going on with Grant since Brooke is a terrible liar. The topic of the brownies also comes up, and Amy insists she’s not upset about them both making brownies.
The family soon starts reminiscing about the kids as children. However, when the topic of tennis comes up, the mood of the room seems to deflate. As Savannah presses the topic, Stan tells her that they were all in the top five of the junior players in the country at some point. Amy, however, clarifies that they each all never quite made it — “we all got close enough to make you think it was going to happen, and then one by one, we crashed and burned.”
Joy thinks back to her and Stan’s trip to Wimbledon. They’d always wanted to go. But are they were sitting there, the thought of themselves there as mere audience members (as opposed to as a coach, or player, or the parent of a player) reminded them of their spoiled dreams. Stan had started to feel sick and so they left even though they’d paid $6K each for the tickets.
Stan mentions how Amy was a “comeback queen” when she played. Joy thinks unhappily about how she suspected that Amy liked to lose points or games on purpose initially because she liked being the underdog. Eventually, at 14 or 15 she started choking (when your mental state prevents you from winning), and Joy thinks “that summed up Amy’s whole life: a constant power struggle with a cruel invisible foe.”
Stan then turns to Logan. He says Logan had a great forehand and stamina, but that “Logan never truly committed to the sport. He just didn’t want it enough.”
As for Troy, he had the desire to win, but Stan says Troy was a “show pony”. He wanted to go for “show-off shots” even when it wasn’t the best strategy to win the game. Troy brings up his tennis scholarship at Stanford, but Stan ignores it talks about how Troy also couldn’t control his temper. He brings up the Harry Haddad situation and how Troy lost his temper which got him banned for six months.
Troy says that Harry had cheated, but his father denies seeing it happened. Even now, Stan still “never saw how he betrayed Troy every time he made that statement”. (Brooke explains to Savannah that there’s no umpires at the lower levels so players make their own line calls.)
Finally, Stan turns to Brooke, who he describes as the smartest and most strategic one on court. He then says that her migraines are what caused her to retire from the sport. Stan then adds that with the “right medical advice things might have been different’, which causes Joy to get irritated since Stan had seen it as her responsibility to deal with the children’s medical care and “fix” Brooke.
Joy retorts that they tried so many doctors, but before things can escalate, Logan jumps in to tell them that Indira left him, just to change the subject.
With that, the whole family expresses their disappointment since they really loved Indira. Then, Brooke ends up telling everyone that she and Grant broke up as well. The family is sympathetic. Afterwards, Troy decides to make his own announcement.
Troy says that he met up with Claire, who is remarried now having difficulty conceiving with her husband. Claire still has their embryos from when they were doing IVF. (Their marriage broke up because he was unfaithful). She want to use them (and essentially have his children) and for her husband to adopt the child. Troy admits that he hates the idea, but the he knows it’s Claire’s only chance to have biological children.
Joy agrees that it’s the right thing to do, but it saddens her to think that her only grandchild might be one that she might never meet. Her mood only worsens as she realizes she’s been having weird symptoms lately and that it’s likely a UTI from her and Stan having more sex lately.
Joy suddenly starts arguing with Stan (about an old argument about him causing someone named Dennis Christos to have a heart attack). Then she turns to her children and asks what she did wrong that all of them are unable to “maintain a long-term relationship”. She pointedly asked if they are somehow “punishing” them for making them play tennis or something.
As they argue, Joy can tell that Stan is about to snap (“it had been twenty years since he’d done it but she still recognised the signs”), but Joy’s not in the mood for it and tells him not to “dare”. She then tells the kids to leave.
Chapter 25 (Now)
In present day, Joy’s been gone for 15 days. Brooke is talking to the police and tell them how Joy got sick last father’s day with a kidney infection (which she misdiagnosed as a UTI). Her mother was in hospital for two days. Brooke tells them they also had some family drama that day as well. She talks about how tennis dominated her childhood.
Brooke also says it was a bit odd that Savannah had been serving all of them that day and how enamored her parents were of her. Around the time her mother returned from the hospital, her brother learned something about Savannah that made them nervous.
Chapter 26 (Last October)
Flashback to Last October. Logan is at home thinking about how empty the apartment is without Indira. He tries calling a friend of his, Hien, but Hien is more interested in trying to convince Logan to coach his son in tennis.
Indira soon calls, asking after how Joy was doing in the hospital. As they talk, Logan ends up telling her about something his dad used to do that always bothered him. Logan says that if Stan got angry, he’d leave and disappear somewhere. They didn’t know where he’d go or for how long he’d be gone. Once he was gone for five days after Troy’s incident with Harry.
Indira comments about how his father was avoiding conflict and how she can’t believe Joy put up with that. However, when Indira starts to psychoanalyze him, Logan starts feels irritated. Logan says he would never stuff like that, but Indira says that he tends to “check out” during any type of disagreement. Before they can say more, Logan says that he needs to go, and they get off the phone. He tells himself that Indira was the one to leave.
Logan then gets a call from Don Travis, the head of his department. Don says that they’d gotten a complaint about him, implying some type of sexual harassment last week. Don says there was no official complaint and she didn’t provide a name, but Don wanted him to know about it.
To get his mind off things, he flips on the television. He stops on a channel airing a documentary where a woman is being interviewed. He recognizes the words she’s saying. The woman is talking about how her boyfriend flipped out after seeing a segment on domestic violence and being questioned about whether he paid the car registration fees. Logan recognizes it as the exact same story that Savannah had told him about her boyfriend, with parts that were copied word-for-word.
Chapter 27 (Now)
In present day, Christina explains to her boss that the family thinks that Joy has walked off as payback for all the times that Stan stalked off for days and was unreachable. Christina disagrees with them. It’s been 16 days now, and Christina is thinking that Joy is more likely dead.
Chapter 28 (Last October)
Flashback to Last October. After hearing the information about Savannah from Logan, Amy runs into Simon downstairs. He tells her that he has just quit his accounting job and is going to take a few months off to travel. Simon tells her that he’s trying to be more spontaneous because his ex-fiancé had said one of her issues with him was his lack of spontaneity.
Amy mentions that she’s headed to her parents’ place because she’s concerned they have a scammer staying with them, and he offers to give her a ride. Amy is determined to gather “biographical data” about Savannah. When they arrive, Savannah answers the door since both parents are asleep.
Savannah initially says it’s not a good time, but Simon says he needs to use the restroom. Amy and Simon then ask Savannah about her name, and she identifies herself as “Savannah Marie Pagonis”. Amy then goes to check on her mother, which wakes Joy.
They talk about Savannah, and Joy talks about what a great help Savannah has been. She also says that Savannah claims to have a “superior autobiographical memory” where she can recall her memories in great detail. Finally, Amy tells Joy about what Logan saw on television, with Savannah possibly having copied her story from someone on TV.
Chapter 29 (Now)
In present day, Simon’s older sister, Liz Barrington, asks him about what he knows about Joy’s disappearance as he does her taxes.
Chapter 30 (Last October)
Flashback to Last October. Joy and Savannah are having lunch after having gone on a shopping day. Joy thinks about how shopping with Joy reminds her of her own mother who liked doing stuff like this, unlike her daughters. Joy’s mother had died over 20 years ago, and her grief over it “had been so complicated and strange” since Joy’s mother hadn’t been a particularly good mother
As they chat, Joy asks about Savannah’s necklace with a key on it, and Savannah face looks hard for a moment. She says it was a gift from a friend to represent doors opening.
Joy thinks about how she likes the idea of Savannah staying on in their house as a lodger or something, with her maybe cooking in exchange for free rent, however Stan seems against it. Ever since she returned from the hospital, he’s been saying that Savannah has been here for six weeks now and perhaps it’s time for her to go.
Joy doesn’t believe the story Amy told about Savannah copying her words from some documentary. Still, she asks Savannah about the incident, though Savannah changes the topic. She asks if there was any infidelity in Joy and Stan’s marriage, and Joy lies and says no.
When they spot a girl in a tutu, Savannah comments that she used to do classical ballet. Joy find it odd that a foster parent would send her to do ballet. Joy asks about it, and Savannah says that it was just a few introductory lesson. Joy is certain Savannah is lying.
Afterwards, they run into Debbie Christos, the widow of Dennis Christos (who Joy previously accused Stan of having killed by causing his heart attack and who Joy had once kissed).
Chapters 31 – 32 (Now)
In present day, Debbie Christos gossips with her friend Sulin Ho about having met Savannah once as they discuss Joy’s disappearance. Sulin then comments that last October she’d seen Stan Delaney sitting in the gutter by the road and crying.
Debbie thinks about to how the Christos and the Delaneys were the four founding members of their tennis club. Debbie wonders if anything ever happed between Dennis and Joy, since both Dennis and Debbie had had “flings” early on in their marriage.
Sulin and Debbie are soon approached by Mark Higbee, who they both dislike and who also plays tennis on Monday nights socially. He obnoxiously and unsympathetically chats with them about Joy’s disappearance, saying that he saw Stan two days after Joy went missing and he looked terrible.
Elsewhere, Christina and Ethan discuss the case. They wonder if something happened between Stan and Savannah. Moreover, they discuss how the Delaney children all seem to be very “cagey” about something.
Chapters 33 – 34 (Last October)
Flashback to Last October. Troy contemplates what to do about the Claire situation, and he regrets cheating on her. He thinks about how meaningless the girl he cheated with was. After cheating, he’d confessed right as he came home, and he wonders why he has a tendency to self-sabotage. He thinks about how great Claire was and about how Claire’s new husband is a cardiologist from Texas who probably treats her well. Finally, Troy shoots Claire and email telling her to go ahead with using the embryos, agreeing to sign whatever documents were needed. He wonders if this was his “first ever act of unconditional love”.
Troy’s thoughts are interrupted by Savannah showing up at his apartment. She tells him that while Joy was in the hospital, Stan had made an inappropriate request, which she refused. Thinking of how upset Joy would be to learn about this, Troy insists that Savannah not tell her. When Joy says that she’s still “trying to decide”, he realizes that Savannah is “here to make a deal”, and he understands why she came to him (the one with money) as opposed to one of his other siblings.
Meanwhile, Logan is in class when it suddenly occurs to him to go talk to Savannah’s ex-boyfriend Dave to get more information about her. He heads over to the apartment that afternoon. Looking at the art on the walls, he’s reminded of how Indira had suggested they move into a larger place at one point so she could have a studio to paint. However, Logan had been reluctant to sell his home just in case things didn’t work out. Now that she was gone, he tells himself that “his strategy was sound”.
When Dave realizes who Logan is, he’s taken aback at first. But when Logan says that Savannah said he hit her, Dave seems genuinely surprised. Dave says that never happened. Instead, he’d been apologizing for forgetting her birthday that day they’d all shown up at his place. Dave says that Savannah has a tendency to lie about things.
Logan then mentions how his ex had wanted to start painting, but didn’t. Dave says she probably didn’t feel comfortable doing it around him, especially when she was starting off which is why she wanted her own studio.
As they chat, they establish that Savannah also lied about having recently moved from the Gold Coast and about having grown up in foster care. Finally, Dave tells him that what triggered Savannah finally walking out (saying she was “going back there”) was something totally random — a TV segment about a tennis player named Harry Haddad.
Chapter 35 (Now)
In present day, Brooke is on the phone with Troy at the offices of Marshall and Smith Criminal Defense Lawyers. She’s there to get her father a lawyer and meets with their senior partner Chris Marshall.
Chapter 36 (Last October)
Flashback to Last October. Brooke is trying to research Savannah online, but nothing comes up for “Savannah Pagonis”. Brooke then takes a photo of Savannah (which her mother had taken when they were shopping) and crops out her face. She uses reverse image search, and it leads her to an image of Savannah at the launch of a recipe book, referring to her as “Savannah Smith“. Next, she finds a newspaper article about a young Savannah Smith winning first place at a regional ballet competition.
(P.S. Quick note — I know this is not how Reverse Image Searches work, but this is what happens in the book).
Later, Ines Lang, one of Brooke’s friends, soon shows up with a bottle of champagne after having heard about Brooke being separated from Grant. Ines tells Brooke how glad she is that Brooke’s no longer with Grant. She says it always seemed like Brooke was constantly making an effort to make him happy and not a two-way street.
Then, as Brooke recalls an old memory involving a girl stealing her banana as a child, she realizes that she’d met Savannah as a child.
Chapter 37 (Now)
In present day, Ines runs into Grant while she’s out shopping with her mother. Grant tells Ines that he and Brooke aren’t divorced yet, but they’re more focused on Joy’s disappearance right now. Grant also wonders why the police haven’t contacted him yet. He says he knows Joy once cheated on Stan, and he’s considering telling the police since it would create a motive for Stan to kill Joy.
Chapter 38 (Last October)
Flashback to Last October. Simon tells Amy that he did an ASIC (Australian Securities and Investments Commission) search and it turns out that Savannah has a history of fraud. Three years ago, she was listed as the director of a business that was selling fraudulent tennis memorabilia.
Amy thinks about her father’s signed tennis ball collection and wonders if Savannah deliberately targeted her parents (i.e. her father may have purchased some fake signed tennis balls from her business, so Savannah knew he was a good target). Simon and Amy decide to go confront Savannah.
Chapter 39 (Now)
In present day, Ethan and Christina discuss Savannah’s aliases and her business selling fake tennis memorabilia.
Chapters 40 – 41 (Last October)
Flashback to Last October. With her suspicions growing, Joy goes into Savannah’s room when she’s gone. On the desk is a journal. Inside, she finds a food diary — a record of anything Savannah had eaten in immaculate detail. Joy realizes Savannah must have some type of eating disorder and feels bad for her.
Stan then comes looking for her. He tells her that Troy just told him he paid Savannah a bunch of money because she was claiming Stan had been inappropriate with her. Joy and Stan both know it must be a lie. Stan then says that while Joy was in the hospital, Savannah seemed to be subtly coming onto him little.
Stan thinks they should go to the police. As they discuss, they notice some photos in Savannah’s things. In one of them is a picture of a young Savannah with a young Harry Haddad. In that moment, Savannah walks in. She tells them that she is Harry Haddad’s sister, who they only met once as a kid.
Savannah thinks about how she’d started selling fake Harry Haddad memorabilia when he’d gotten famous, but his management team found out and put a stop to it.
Joy then recalls that Savannah’s parents divorced. Harry went with his dad, and Savannah grew up with her mother. Savannah tells them that tennis is what split her family apart, and her father and brother forgot about her. Her mother “loved her collection of bitter resentments more than her”.
The night she came to their door, it was her birthday. She’d left her boyfriend because he had forgotten about her, too (by standing her up). She gotten her injury on her eyebrow from tripping over a guitar case. She wasn’t sure exactly why she came back here — “it occurred to her that she should go back to where it started, as if she could travel back through time and stop Harry taking that first lesson, or if not that, at least make sense of it, or if not that, make that family pay for what they’d started”.
Chapters 42 – 43 (Now)
In present day, Caro Azinovic, one of the Delaney’s neighbors, is considering contacting police. She had told them that they were a nice and happy couple, but she remembered one night hearing the Delaneys arguing loudly and wonders if she should tell them.
Caro’s thoughts are interrupted by her son, Jacob, who tells her that “they’ve found a body”. Elsewhere, Sulin Ho slams on her brakes when she hears the news on the radio. They refer to Joy as a “poor missing grandma” on the news, and Sulin cries thinking of how Joy will never become a grandma if that really is her body.
Chapter 44 (Last October)
Flashback to Last October. Soon, the family is gathered at the Delaney house with Savannah there as well. Joy demands to know why exactly Savannah is doing all of this. Savannah starts recounting her memory of the one time she visited their house as a child.
She was there to pick up Harry, but she recalls being yelled at by Joy since she tried to go in through the wrong door. Then, the went through Brooke’s bag to take a banana, and Brooke yelled at her. Savannah says in her defense that she was starving because her mother wouldn’t let her eat, since she wanted her to be a ballerina. Savannah then says that Logan threw his racquet at her (it was the day he first lost against Troy and he lost his temper and tossed his racquet). And then she tried to go into the kitchen to get some food, but Troy chased her out. She also asked Amy to make her a sandwich, but Amy said no.
While Amy and Joy are sympathetic towards Savannah, Stan dismisses all of it and tells Savannah to leave. However, when he mentions Harry ditching him as a coach, Savannah drops a bombshell on them — that it was Joy’s decision for Harry to leave the Delaneys.
Chapter 45 (Now)
In present day, Christina and Ethan finally think they have a motive for Joy’s possible murder.
Chapter 46 (Last October)
Flashback to Last October. After hearing Savannah’s information, Stan instinctively knows it’s true, and he responds by walking out the door.
Back inside, Joy explains that she told Harry’s father that Harry needed training that Stan couldn’t provide, so they left. She ask Elias not to tell Stan about the conversation and he agreed.
She did it because if Stan was coaching Harry and traveling internationally all the time, then he would have never been able to coach his own kids. At that time, they still thought there was a possibility that these kids could get to the top of the sport. Beyond that, Joy says that she needed him because she was raising four kids and running a business.
Eventually they agree it’s time for Savannah to leave, and she agrees to pay back the money that Troy gave her. She apologizes before she leaves.
Chapters 47 – 48 (Now)
In present day, Christina has learned that the body they found wasn’t Joy’s. In fact, someone had spotted Joy yesterday getting off a train. Moreover, having finally learned more about the Savannah situation, Christina is annoyed that the Delaney siblings kept a lot of information from her in fear of making their father look bad.
As she talks to Troy, he confirms that Savannah return the money to him, though he says he didn’t cash the check because he feels bad for her. He says that both their fathers chose Harry Haddad over them.
He says that after the October encounter he never saw Savannah again. His father ended up returning soon after because he fell in a pothole and hurt himself. Someone drove him back. After that, he was stuck in the house for a while to recover and he was unable to play tennis during that time, so it was tough for him.
Troy then mentions an incident on Christmas that made him think that his parents might truly hate one another.
Afterwards, at the Delaney house, the Delaney siblings argue about what to do next. Troy admits to mentioning the Christmas incident to the police. Outside, Jacob Azinovic brings over a lamb casserole for them, though his real intention is to eavesdrop at his mother’s request. Jacob used to have a crush on Troy.
As the leaves, Jacob notices the security camera outside his mother’s house had gotten knocked astray by a hailstone a while ago and was now pointed partially toward the Delaney house. He wonders if it might have any relevant information.
Chapter 49 (Christmas Day)
Flashback to Christmas day. The Delaney family is gathered at their parents’ house. Amy is still seeing Simon, though he’s spending Christmas with his parents. The siblings talks about how they miss Indira, but not Grant. Amy thinks about how Brooke is more herself now that Grant is out of the picture. Their parents, however, are still not speaking to one another.
Then, a fire alarm goes off due to some smoke from a burning saucepan as Joy prepares lunch. Frustrated, she tosses the ruined food into the trash. When Stan comes in to ask when lunch is going to be ready, Joy takes one of the decorative china cat that used to belong to his mother (“they seemed to watch her, the way her mother-in-law had once watched her, with pure malice”) and lets it shatter on the floor.
Chapters 50 – 52 (Now)
In present day, Amy is in therapy with Roger Strout telling him about the incident at Christmas. She says that afterwards, they had an awkward lunch and that none of the siblings went to visit for a while. By the time they got the text from their mom, it had already been one week since anyone had heard from her. Amy stresses out about whether her father really did something to her mother or not.
Elsewhere, Christina has established that the body they found was Polly Perkins and that she’d been dead for 30 years. Her husband has confessed. He told everyone that Polly had left him and return home to New Zealand.
She soon gets word that a bloody t-shirt has been found behind the Delaney’s home. They soon bring in Stan for questioning. They ask him about Valentine’s Day. He says that they were sleeping in separate rooms at that point. They’d had an argument that morning, and he went out for a drive afterwards as a result. He returned at 10 o’clock later that night.
They confront him about the t-shirt, which he identifies as Joy’s shirt. He soon tells them he thinks he needs a lawyer.
Chapter 53 (Valentine’s Day)
Flashback to Valentine’s Day. By now, Harry’s comeback has been a huge failure with an embarrassing loss. As a result, Stan is on edge, reminded of Joy’s betrayal.
Joy is upset, too. She also decides to stop calling her kids and see how long it takes for one of them to call her instead. However, it’s now been a week and none of them have called. Tp her, it feels like her children don’t care about her.
Still, Joy thinks that she doesn’t want to give up on her marriage. She thinks about making apple crumble, his mother’s signature dish which he would understand as a peace offering. However, she checks and there’s no apples in the kitchen, and Stan has the car, so she has to take the bike to the grocery store. She manages to make it there and buy the apples, but then she ends up with a flat tire. Irritated, she walks home instead, leaving the bike and apples behind.
When she gets home, Stan tells her that Harry has published his memoir. In it, Harry admits to cheating at tennis as a kid. Joy reminds Stan that he accused Troy of lying about it, and Stan argues that Troy should be focused on his own game. Stan then says that the reason Harry played so hard was because Elias told him that his sister had cancer. He said that Harry had to win money so that his sister could get treatment.
It soon escalates into an argument about him taking Harry’s side over her kids and him accusing her of getting in the way of his profession. When he says that, she finally bursts out by saying that she gave up her tennis career for him. Instead, she spent her life taking care of their kids, running the business and cooking all the time which she hated.
However, he then says that if she really wanted to play tennis professionally, she would have done it. Joy is infuriated at how dismissive he is about her sacrifices. He also says that she was never going to make it into the top ten, otherwise he wouldn’t have let her stop playing tennis.
Angrily, she says that Stan wasn’t the best coach for Harry and that he was better off without him, though she doesn’t really believe it.
When he starts to walk out, she thinks about how it has always been unacceptable and wrong that he walks out all the time. She goes after him and reaches out to stop him, but it causes him to nearly fall and she accidentally scratches him. He grabs at Joy and she sees the blind rage in his eyes.
Chapter 54 (Now)
In present day, Christina and Ethan watch the CCTV video that Jacob had brought to them. In it, Stan comes out just after midnight and struggles with something large wrapped in a blanket which he carries into the trunk of his car.
Chapter 55 (Valentine’s Day)
Flashback to Valentine’s Day. Stan thinks back to his mother and how cruel she could be with her words. She berated his father until one day, his father lashed out and hit her. He remembers thinking that “she deserved it.”
He has always known he was like his father, and he thinks about how “his pain and hurt, ballooned within his chest” as he turned on his wife.
Chapters 56 – 62 (Now)
In present day, Troy tells Claire that they’re likely going to arrest his father based on something the police saw on the CCTV footage from across the street. Brooke is standing by her father even if he did do it (“one moment of madness doesn’t nullify a lifetime of love”), but Troy disagrees and isn’t speaking to Brooke.
Claire then tells Troy that she’s pregnant. Claire knows that neither Troy or her husband Geoff wants her to have Troy’s children, and she knows Troy is doing it out of guilt while Geoff is doing it out of love for her.
Elsewhere, Logan updates Indira on the situation with his mother. She tells herself she’s here to be supportive of him as a friend, but her friends insist she’s still in love with him. As they talk, Logan tells her he’s considering moving into a bigger house so she could have a studio to paint in (if they got back together). He’s also purchased a ring to eventually propose with.
Meanwhile, Simon thinks he knows what really happened to Joy. Amy and Simon “broke up” a few days ago, and Amy is preoccupied with her mother’s disappearance. Still, he goes to her room and shows her what he found and she gasps.
As Ethan and Christina go to arrest Stan, they get a call from a Dr. Henry Edgeworth, finally returning their call. He says that he doesn’t know a Joy Delaney and that perhaps they have the wrong person. Christina suggests that maybe someone else made the call from his house.
He then says that Savannah was staying with him (who claimed that her name was Savannah Delaney) a few weeks ago, but he hasn’t seen her since Valentine’s Day. Ethan and Christina wonder what it means that Joy and Savannah talked just before her disappearance. They decide they’re going to arrest both Stan and Savannah.
Caro watches as the police head in to arrest Stan. She’s on the phone with Petra, her daughter who lives in Denmark. As Caro tells her what’s going on, Petra sounds panicked, saying that she actually saw Joy on Valentine’s day.
Then, as the police arrest Stan, Joy Delaney walks in.
Chapter 63 (Valentine’s Day)
Flashback to Valentine’s Day. Despite his pain and humiliation, Stan knew he was not his father and didn’t want to “hurt a woman, not any woman, but especially not this woman”. He turns away and walks out.
Chapter 64 (Now)
In present day, Joy is confused, saying that Stan knew exactly where she was because she left a note on the fridge. They piece together that it must’ve fallen off because she used the fridge magnet that always falls off and perhaps the got chewed it up. Joy mentions her text message, but he says it sounded like gibberish.
As for the CCTV, it turns out Stan was getting rid of the carpet which Joy had wanted him to remove for years, so now they had wooden flooring. The t-shirt was left over from when she cut her foot at the beach one day. Joy says that Caro’s cat must’ve gone through their trash and left it nearby.
Stan also tells Joy that he finally bought a mobile phone, and he promises he’ll answer if she calls.
Chapter 65 (Valentine’s Day)
Flashback to Valentine’s Day. After Stan walks out, Joy feels listless and decides she doesn’t want to be home when Stan gets back. Suddenly, her phone rings and it’s Savannah. Savannah says she’s staying the secondary apartment of a married man who’s a plastic surgeon that she’s having an affair with.
Savannah starts to talk about Harry’s memoir and about how her father had lied to Harry. By the time Harry realizes that Savannah wasn’t really sick, Harry’s tennis career was already taking off. Now, she feels bad that she hated Harry so she didn’t do anything when his niece ended up getting sick.
Savannah says that she has signed up for an event for one of Harry’s charities to atone a little bit because she feels bad for hating him for so long. It’s a “21-Day Off-Grid Challenge to End Childhood Cancer”. As they talk, Joy suggests that she accompany her.
Before she leaves, she writes Stan a note apologizing for some of the things she said and for sending Harry away. Still, she defends choosing their children over him and says that she knows she was good enough to have played tennis as a career. She also writes that it has been hard for her with him walking out and disappearing, so she’s going to leave for a while and when they get back they can try to work things out.
She also texts her kids before she leaves and puts her phone on the nightstand, but it knocks to the ground as the leaves. Around that time, Petra is visiting Caro and is heading into the city, so she offers Joy a ride. They chat about Petra’s life. Right afterwards, Petra gets word that her son has broken his arm, so she flies home to Denmark the next day.
Chapters 66 – 68 (Now)
In present day, Amy sees what Simon found about Harry’s charity and their 21-Day event. Looking at her mother’s text, she realized it was supposed to read “Going OFF-GRID for a little while. I’m doing Harry’s 21-Day Challenge to End Childhood Cancer. Sponsor Me! Love, Mum.”
Then, she tells Simon she loves him and they kiss.
Soon, Stan texts the kids to say their mother is home. The family is reunited. In late January, the worldwide pandemic has just begun, with people social distancing and on lockdown. Troy and Brooke make up. Claire ends up moving back to Australia with her husband, and Troy decides he wants to share custody, which Claire’s husband reluctantly agrees to. Joy suspects that Troy wants to win Claire back.
In retrospect, Joy knows she gave up tennis by her own choice and that no one could have changed her mind. Still, she knows if she had a granddaughter who played tennis, she wouldn’t let her give it up for a boy.
While Stan and Joy don’t discuss the Harry Haddad situation, Stan does tell Joy that he understand why she did it, which Joy takes as forgiveness. Joy admits to herself that she sent Harry away more for herself that for her kids. She was angry with Stan for walking out on her all the time and tired of being responsible for everything. Later, Joy suggests to Stan that perhaps they could take turns with cooking during lockdown and Stan agrees.
Meanwhile, the kids ask what she did with Savannah while they were off-grid. Joy had a perfectly good time with Savannah, though she lies and tell the kids that they annoyed each other sometimes in the tiny house. While her kids are horrified by the idea of her forgiving Savannah, Joy thinks that forgiveness “comes easier with ago”.
While they were together, Savannah did admit that she was the one to call in the sexual harassment complaint against Logan. She was made brownies on Father’s Day to get back at Amy on purpose. She also admits to hitting on Stan when Joy was in the hospital. Still, Joy still thinks there’s something Savannah wanted to say but didn’t. Afterwards, Savannah says she’s finally going to call her brother.
Chapters 69 – 71 (Now)
Brooke is now single and still running her clinic as the pandemic rages on. She smells something familiar and sees that someone has left an apple crumble on her desk. Brooke thinks back to how Savannah and Joy had been trying to figure out Stan’s mother’s apple crumble recipe, and she knows that Savannah finally cracked it.
Soon, Logan calls Stan saying that he finally watched his friend Hien’s son play tennis. Logan says he’s great and that he’s going to try to coach the boy.
Stan thinks about his own father and how they used to play tennis together once a week secretly (since his mother didn’t know they met up). Stan’s father had hoped to someday see Stan play and Wimbledon, but he died when Stan was 16. Still, he recalls his father telling him (sometime after the violent incident with Stan’s mother), that if he (Stan) loses his temper with a woman or child someday, to just walk away. The day Stan and Joy had finally gone to Wimbledon, his complicated memories of his father had come flooding back.
Later, Savannah flies back to Adelaide to see her mother. She confronts her about the how she forced her to count her calories, how she locked her into her room to force her not to eat and how it led to her having an eating disorder. But her mother doesn’t apologize, saying she had a TV in her room and the trophies spoke for themselves.
Savannah thinks about how her mother had taken her to see Dr. Henry Edgeworth as a kid to potentially get plastic surgery on her ears (though it was too expensive so they didn’t do it). He’d laughed at her when she said she was hungry. Recently, she’d gotten her revenge on him, too.
When her mother falls asleep on her sleeping pills, Savannah drags her into her old room. She places a bunch of water and protein bars inside and leaves a note, instructing her mother to ration carefully. She locks the door, and then she leaves for Sydney for a while.
(In the interim, she reaches out to Harry, who agrees that they should meet up when the pandemic is over, since he lives in America.)
When she finally flies back, Savannah doesn’t know what she’ll find at home. Did her mother manage to get out or is she still locked in there? As she chats with her seatmate, Savannah tells him that her mother plays tennis.
(The book ends without knowing what happened to her mother. It also indicates that Savannah will continue lying to people and pretending to be someone she’s not, etc.)