The book jumps back and forth from the points of view of two twin sisters, Rose and Fern Castle. Rose’s parts are excepts from her journal.
Chapters 1 – 4
Rose Ingrid Castle, 28, writes about being left by her husband Owen, three months ago, which she attributes to her suddenly deciding at 27 that she wanted children. Her therapist attributes her strong desire to raise a child to her wanting to do correctly what her mother was unable to.
Rose then thinks back to when she was 12. She talks about going camping with her mom, Nina Castle, and her mom’s boyfriend, Daniel, along with her twin sister Fern and Daniel’s son Billy. Rose had never had much of a “normal” family life, but on this trip her mother was happy and being uncharacteristically motherly, even affectionate. However, when Rose snuck off for just a moment to use the restroom, she’d come back to find Fern standing over something dead.
In present day, Fern Castle, 28, is a librarian at the Bayside Public Library. Her co-worker, Linda, is the children’s librarian and is busy reading to a group of toddlers. As Fern describes her interactions and thoughts, it’s clear that she is socially awkward (possibly autistic). Fern describes how she gets advice on how to interact socially with others from her sister, Rose, and co-workers. Rose works at the library four days a weeks and enjoys karate as a hobby.
The library is often visited by homeless people who want to use the showers or bathroom, and Fern has been instructed to be accommodating towards them. Today, she approaches a man who’s dressed (unintentionally) like Where’s Waldo (called “Wally” in Australia), and she nicknames him “Wally”. She offers him a bag of toiletries, which she likes to give to the homeless patrons, but realizes that he is not homeless.
Fern then thinks about how much she loves the library. She recalls a year where her mother had taken them to the library every day, and the librarian at the time, Mrs. Delahunty, had taken an interest in her and Rose.
Meanwhile, Rose has a very different take on that year. Their father had left, leaving their mother unable to afford the rent. Rose remembers them being homeless, living at various people’s houses or in their car, and being hungry a lot. They were taken to the library because there was nowhere else to go. When Fern had accidentally let on to Mrs. Delahunty that they were homeless, their mother had been furious, and Rose took responsibility for it.
Fern and Rose have matching bracelets, one engraved with a fern and the other with a rose. When Rose taps her bracelet against Fern’s, it serves as a warning. Fern thinks that their system works, and there’s only one time that Rose wasn’t able to stop her from doing the wrong thing.
Chapters 5 – 7
On Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays at 6:15, Fern goes to Rose to have dinner with Rose. It’s a routine that keeps her grounded. That day, Fern has forgotten to bring milk over to Rose’s place. Fern is frustrated by her absentmindedness, especially because she has a great memory for names, faces and book details.
Rose is an interior designer who designs office spaces, and she has Type 1 diabetes. When Rose tests herself, Fern walks away because blood makes her queasy. As she does, Fern sees Rose’s suitcase partially packed and is stressed, thinking about Rose’s upcoming trip. Rose is leaving for four weeks to visit Owen in London, and they’ve never been apart that long.
Rose talks about how she has been taking Elevit, pills to help her get pregnant. She has learned that she has Premature Ovarian Ageing, POA, which means the quality and quantity of her eggs are not great.
Fern has never considered herself capable of raising kids. Her last relationship, with a guy named Albert, was a decade ago and lasted four months. She found sex unenjoyable. However, Fern likes the idea of being able to use her eggs to help Rose and likes the idea of being an aunt.
On Fridays, Fern’s colleagues go out for lunch, and Fern is happy to volunteer to stay behind to mind matters (and avoid having to converse). That day, Fern’s boss Carmel suggests that Fern joins them sometime, but Fern ignores her. Instead, she does research on surrogacy methods and options. It dawns on Fern that one method is simply to get pregnant by someone random and she starts looking into meeting someone on Tinder.
After lunch, Wally is back, and he needs help with the printer. Fern dislikes helping people with printer (and photocopying) issues, but she finds him handsome and likes his American accent. On his computer, he sees a document that shows his name as “Rocco Ryan” and that he is a computer programmer. As they talk, Fern learns that he lives in his van. As Fern assesses him, it occurs to her that he might make a good sperm donor, and she asks him out.
Rose worries about her trip, thinking that Owen might be gearing up to end things for good.
Rose also thinks about how her mother taught them that love is conditional. She liked for them to put on a show for others. She liked Fern and Rose most when others found them “charming because it reflected well on her.”
She treated them as though their only purpose should be to love her. Though her mother had never hit them, when Rose had once moved to defend Fern in fear that she might hit her, her mother had thrown a fit and broken all their toys.
Chapters 8 – 9
Fern has sensory perception issues where she can sometimes feel overwhelmed. She recalls how in school one day someone had grabbed her in celebration at a school event, and Fern had responded by attacking that person. A teacher who tried to calm her down ended up with a broken nose. Instead of feeling remorseful, Fern had just been relieved that things weren’t worse, knowing she could have accidentally killed someone.
In present day, Fern and Wally meet up for their date at the Botanic Gardens. Fern calculates that she will be ovulating a week from now, so they will have to do on another date in a week.
They both show up early for the picnic date, expressing that they both believe in punctuality. He brings a wide array of foods. When she expresses skepticism over where found money for it, he reassures her that living in his van is a “lifestyle choice”, and he does freelance work so he has money for food.
Fern tells Wally about her twin sister, Rose. She also says that their mother overdosed when she was 12 and they were put into foster care.
During their date, Rose calls about her dog, Alfie. As they talk, Fern realizes that she’s forgotten she was supposed to feed and walk Alfie while Rose was in Europe, but hadn’t done so. Calculating that Alfie hadn’t been fed in four days, Fern and Wally immediately head for his van in order to go to Rose’s house. At the house, Alfie is still, but alive. Fern is reminded of the incident at the camping trip when they were 12.
Wally moves to give Alfie water, and they head to the vet. There, the vet has questions about Alfie’s state, but Wally reassures him that Alfie is in good hands. He promises the vet that he’ll watch Alfie while Fern is at work.
Afterwards, Fern admits to Wally that she’s frustrated by her forgetfulness and worries about what could happen when left to her own devices. Still, she feels content as Wally agrees to meet with her on Monday morning to watch Alfie. That night, Fern wakes once an hour as instructed by the vet to give Alfie water.
Chapters 10 – 12
In London, Owen shows up at the airport with peonies. Rose is delighted as Owen talks about how much he missed her. Things are perfect.
Rose is only stressed about when the tip ends and it’s time to leave, since “leaving” is tricky for her. She remembers how “leaving” was the threat that her mother always used to scare them. Rose also thinks about how her mom constantly chided her about eating, calling her “Rosie Round”. Comparatively, Fern was tall, skinny and had a high metabolism. One time when Rose got upset about her mother’s ribbing, her mother packed a suitcase and left for the rest of the day while Rose freaked out.
On Monday, Wally shows up at Fern’s place as promised to fetch Alfie. At work, Carmel asks Fern why she hasn’t signed up their bowling team-building event, and she informs Fern that it’s mandatory.
At lunch, Wally shows up at lunchtime in a suit, apologetically explaining that there’s a meeting that has come up that he needs to attend. Fern happens to mention the bowling, and she invites Wally. Fern then tells Carmel that they’ll both be attending.
Fern takes Alfie into a secret cupboard that her previous manager, Janet, had told her about. Only Fern knows about it. Janet later had a stroke and passed away. Meanwhile, Fern never told anyone about it, and it has provided Fern with a place to hide away from time to time for many years.
Later that day, Fern’s co-worker Gayle mentions another handsome man who was looking for Fern, but says it wasn’t Wally. Fern wonders who it was. Then, Wally returns, upset. He missed his meeting because he wasn’t able to find all-day parking at the station.
When Fern tries to talk to him about it, he’s rude to her. Fern, however, remembers what Janet had told her about people sometimes being angry when they are just sad. Fern remembers how Janet had shown kindness towards and angry person at the library.
Fern decides to simply offer to let Wally park in her parking space at her apartment near the train station if he ever needs it again, since she doesn’t have a car anyway. Wally, surprised by her gesture, quickly calms down and his anger subsides.
When Wally arrives for Wednesday night bowling, he apologies for his behavior. He explains that he was stressed about that meeting. While they bowl, the other women are very curious about Wally, but Fern finds the environment very overwhelming. Fern brings earplugs to try to manage the situation, but it’s still too much. Finally, Fern ends up rocking back and forth until Wally finds her and takes her outside.
Chapters 13 – 15
In London, Rose and Owen travel to Paris. At the Sacré-Cœur in Montmartre, Owen helps a little girl up the stairs, which makes Rose think about what if they had their own child.
Rose thinks about taking care of and protecting Fern growing up. She remembers how hard she tried to be perfect to make her mother happy, but how she always seemed to do something wrong according to her mother.
When they were ten, her mother had accused them of something, but Rose and Fern had no clue what she was talking about. Rose had eventually falsely admitted to it to prevent her mother from blaming Fern for it, and she was confined to her room without food, despite having recently been diagnosed with diabetes. Hours later, with Rose feeling weak and unwell, her mother revealed that she’d simply misplaced some money, and Rose realized it was just a ruse for her mother to stir up some drama. Her mother then chided Rose for “lying” about having done it, but then forgave her since her mother liked being in a position to dole out forgiveness as well.
In present day, Wally finally tells Fern more about himself. He says he previously was the programmer for an app called Shout! which automated ordering for restaurants. It was the first of its kind, and the app did well.
However, as it became successful, he had to do a bunch of networking and other stuff that had nothing to do with programming and he hated it. Finally, they sold the app, but after that he had a nervous breakdown. He then left his life behind, moved to Australia and started living in the van.
Wally says that he’s now developing a new app, and it’s caused him some stress which is why he was so upset the other day. He also mentions to Fern that like her, he doesn’t like to be touched. Fern thinks about his strict punctuality and his frustration over his meeting not going to plan, and she realizes that he is “a little bit like” her. Fern is excited to meet someone who can understand her struggles, like meeting someone who speaks her language.
As they talk about their similarities, Fern asks if he wants to have sex with her. Before Wally can answer, Fern’s neighbor, Mrs. Hazelbury knocks on the door of Wally’s van. Mrs. Hazelbury says that Rose has called Fern twice without answer and asked her to check on Fern. She also says that a man (not Wally) was hanging around her house and seemed to be looking for her earlier that day.
Fern exits the conversation in order to call Rose. Wally comments how Rose always seems to call when they are together. Fern sees that she has seventeen missed calls from Rose. When she gets Rose on the phone, Fern is worried about what she’s done wrong, but when she finds out Rose is just upset over Fern not calling her back as discussed, Fern is nonplussed.
When Fern mentions Wally as a friend of hers, Fern is irritated at how concerned Rose sounds instead of being happy for her. Fern finally gets off the phone when Wally knocks on the door.
When Wally comes in, he accepts her previous offer to have sex with her. Fern is pleasantly surprised to enjoy the sex. Fern considers telling Rose, but recalls how Rose had interrogated her over Albert. After Fern had agreed to bring Albert to dinner with Rose, the next day he’d stopped speaking to her. As such, Fern decides not to say anything about her burgeoning relationship with Wally.
The next day, Mrs. Hazelbury gives her a hard time about having a dog and a van parked in her space, but Fern has already done the research and knows that she’s within her rights. At work, Fern has Alfie with her, but Carmel demands that she not bring him to work anymore. Instead, Fern asks Wally to pick him up, and Wally readily agrees.
When Wally shows up, he says that his presentation went well. Then, Fern says she’s going to see her mother. Wally is confused, but Fern clarifies that her mother overdosed when she was 12, but she didn’t die.
Chapters 16 – 17
Fern arrives at Sun Meadows to see her mother. When her mother had overdosed on valium and alcohol sixteen years ago, she had ended up in a coma for several hours leaving her brain damaged. Now, her mother has trouble talking. Fern arrives to see her mother’s new speech pathologist, Teresa, there.
Fern thinks to herself about how she enjoys visiting her mother and having time to talk to someone where she doesn’t have to worry about things like eye contact and other social graces. She wishes Rose would come visit her mother, since her mother tears up whenever she tells her that Rose isn’t coming.
When Rose gets home, Wally’s van is parked at her place. He tells Fern about his new app, called FollowUp, which deals with social invitations. He seems hopeful about the group of investors, and they decide to celebrate by having sex.
Later, Wally wake Fern up, who was having a nightmare. She was dreaming about holding someone under the water until he was lifeless and limp. Wally puts his arms around her, and Fern goes back to sleep.
The next morning, Fern wakes up with a jolt when she realizes she has slept in for the first time in years. She urges Wally to leave, but before he can, Rose shows up, back from her trip.
When Wally walks out of the bathroom, Fern introduces them reluctantly. Wally then leaves. Rose gives Fern a hard time about letting him stay over, but soon happily tells Fern that things are back on track with Owen. Owen is staying in London to finish the project he’s working on, but Rose seems to feel good about things. Later, Fern realizes she didn’t find out why Rose was back early from her trip.
Chapters 18 – 22
In her journal, Rose writes about how she left Owen because she was worried that Fern was in danger. She cites a statistic that 90% of people with intellectual disabilities are sexually assaulted at some point.
On her way home, Rose is reminded of Gary, who was her mother’s boyfriend when they were 11. Rose recalls how her mother was nicer when he was around, but she was confused by how affectionate Gary was. One day, he took Fern and Rose swimming. Rose recalls how he’d held her and pushed her against him, and she’d known that something about it wasn’t right.
After that point, Gary took any opportunity to fondle Rose, even when others were in the room and not looking. One day, he managed to get Rose completely alone and did things to her that she wouldn’t understand until she was much older.
In present day, Fern is at the library when she hears Carmel upset with a man who is towering over her. The man has a knife and demands “[his] money”. Fern tries to calmly talk him down (assuming that he must be in the wrong place), and she starts reading a book to him until he sits down and the police arrive.
They handcuff him, and afterwards Carmel gratefully gives her a hug for handling the situation. Later, they discuss how that man was likely on drugs of some sort. Janet had once explained that the location of the library means that a lot of drug addicts come through there. Fern tells Carmel about how much Janet had taught her, and Carmel acknowledges that there are things she could learn from Fern.
After work, Rose calls Fern to exclaim that she’s discovered that Wally (or rather, Rocco Ryan) is the one who founded Shout! Rose said that the app was sold for a hundred million dollars. But Fern is dismissive about this information.
When Wally invites Fern out to dinner on Monday (which is one of the nights Fern typically dines with Rose), Fern texts Rose to cancel dinner. Rose objects at first, but Fern insists. Rose is upset and hangs up abruptly.
At dinner, Fern tells Wally about what Rose said about him. He confirms that the article was accurate, though he clarifies that a lot of that money went to other parties, such as investors or his business partner.
Then, Wally brings up that he’s filling out his health insurance paperwork and needs an emergency contact. He asks Fern is she’ll be his “person” and Fern agrees but wants to tell him something about herself first.
Fern then tells him what happened with her and the camping trip when she was 12. She says that Billy was the son of her mom’s boyfriend, and the two of them had been playing a game to see who could hold their breath underwater the longest. Billy had grown increasingly frustrated with Fern who kept beating him. Fern wanted to help him win, and she’d read a statistic that adults can hold their breath for 60 seconds without dying. So, she held him underwater for less than 40 seconds and thought it would be safe, but he died. When Rose found out, she told Fern to lie and say that Billy got caught up in the reeds which is why he drowned.
Wally has some questions, but to Fern’s surprise, Wally sees that it was an accident and reassures her that she’d never hurt anyone. She’s relieved to see that he doesn’t cut her out of his life. Meanwhile, things are going well for Wally’s app, and a video for it goes viral. They celebrate by having sex.
The next morning, Fern realizes that her period is two days late.
Chapters 23 – 26
A few days later, Fern’s period is now six days late. Rose asks Fern to please come with her on the trip to IKA, and Fern very reluctantly agrees. While they’re in the store, Fern throws up. After Rose patiently helps her clean up, Fern tells Rose that she’s pregnant. At home, they use an over the counter pregnancy test to confirm it.
Fern initially plans on telling Wally, but Rose convinces Fern that she shouldn’t keep it and therefore she shouldn’t tell Wally about it. Rose brings up that neither she nor Wally are “stable”, citing his nervous breakdown (which Fern told her about) as evidence.
In her journal, Rose recalls how happy their mom was and how she was on her best behavior when she’d introduced the girls to Daniel, a short while after breaking up with Gary. Her mother had explained that Daniel is someone she’d known as a child.
The following Monday, Carmel decides to shadow Fern at work. Carmel watches as Fern reads to kids and gives out book recommendations. Afterwards, Carmel tells Fern what a “gift” she thinks Fern is for the library.
Later that day, Fern gets a text from Rose about an appointment at the family-planning clinic, which they’d agreed was a good idea just to get some information.
When she gets home, she sees Wally sitting outside his van, and Fern asks him if he wants children. Wally considers the question carefully, as he’d done with other similar questions Fern had asked him previously, and says no. He cites a variety of reasons like his own mental health issues, overpopulation, and lifestyle. Fern appreciates his thought-out answer, but cries about it when she’s alone.
Chapters 27 – 28
The next day, on the way to the clinic, there’s an incident on the bus when Fern sits in the seat meant for pregnant women and people with mobility issues. Another much more pregnant woman shows up and the other passengers berate Fern for not giving up the seat. Fern ends up leaving in tears and walking the rest of the way in the rain.
At the clinic, Rose shows up looking excited, and they end up skipping the appointment. Rose says that the idea occurred to her that perhaps she and Owen could raise Fern’s baby. Rose has already talked to Owen about it, and he is on board. Fern thinks to herself that this was originally her plan, so Fern simply says “okay” though a part of her feels trapped by this plan.
In her journal, Rose writes about how Daniel had been married to Billy’s mother, Trish, for ten years, and they were friendly. Daniel was “much less interested” in Fern and Rose than Gary had been, never touching them. Instead, he talked about Billy a lot.
Finally, about six months in, the girls met Billy when they started planning the camping trip. They needed to buy a bunch of gear for the trip. They went to Trish’s house to pick up Billy, and they were surprised to see how warm and loving Trish was towards Billy, so unlike the way their mother was towards them. As they drove towards the store, there was such a feeling of camaraderie in the car, but Rose was certain their mother would find a way to ruin it.
Chapters 29 – 30
In present day, Rose is seemingly everywhere around Fern now that Fern has agreed to give Rose her baby. Fern is grateful for a break from Rose when she goes to visit her mother.
Fern updates her mother on what’s going on and she thinks of times when her mother had given her good advice. When Fern tells her mother about her pregnancy and the plan for Rose to raise it, her mother becomes red in the face and tells her flat-out “don’t give it to Rose”.
The next day, Fern is still mulling over what her mother said when Wally shows up with sunflowers. Carmel lets Fern off early so she can go meet with him. Wally wants to take Fern to dinner. When she objects (concerned about the noise, etc.), Wally clarifies that he knows a guy who is letting them have the main dining room to themselves (because the restaurant is booked up for a private event) so it’ll be quiet and they’ll be fully in control of the light level and whatnot.
Fern cries, moved by the effort that Wally has made. He also has brought her a beautiful black dress to wear. Plus, he brings a pair of bluetooth-connected, noise cancelling headphones so that things can be quiet while still being able to hear one another.
When Fern asks Wally what the occasion is, he says that he’s gotten a minimum viable product version of FollowUp read to start testing. He attributes his motivation for getting it up and running to Fern.
Fern then wants to tell him about the pregnancy, but before she can, loud noises from the private event upstairs causes Fern to drop to the floor. Once outside, Wally tells Fern they were breaking plates as part of a traditional Greek wedding, which is why it was so loud.
Upset, Fern asks him to call Rose, who gets mad at Wally for taking her there in the first place. Rose then goes to pay the bill and takes Fern home.
Chapters 31 – 34
In Rose’s journal, she writes about them all happily driving towards the campsite. That night, Billy sneaks into the girls tent to play poker and brings a can of beer in with him. The girls refuse to drink, but the three of them have fun playing cards anyway.
After that, Rose develops a crush on Billy, following him around everywhere. Her mother makes fun of her for it though, and so Rose declines to go down to the river one day with Billy. Later that day, Billy and Fern reappear after playing their game of holding their breath underwater. Rose’s mother muses that Billy must have a crush on Fern, just to taunt Rose.
In present day, Rose insists that Fern sleep over and guilts her into staying. Despite her frustration over being treated like a child, the next day, Fern thinks about how terribly the night before had gone and reminds herself of why she needs her sister.
Fern notices that Rose it building an addition onto her house. When Fern asks Rose about it, Rose admits that she thinks Fern should move in with her and that she was constructing the mini-apartment for Fern to live in. Fern is at first taken aback by the small dollhouse-like structure, but Rose convinces Fern that she’ll need someone to help her every day.
Rose also tells Fern that it’s clear Wally’s not up for the task of taking care of her and that she should break things off with him before she starts showing. Fern reluctantly agrees.
A week later, Wally show up at Fern’s place. Wally has been busy with work, and Rose uses it to remind Fern that he doesn’t have time for her. Seeing Fern’s empty apartment, Fern tells Wally that she’s moving in with Rose. When Wally asks if she’s breaking up with him, Fern says yes. She also lies and tells him that she’s met someone else, which is what Rose told her to say.
Chapters 35 – 40
Fern moves in with Rose and misses Wally. Around eight weeks, Fern’s morning sickness reaches its apex. At 12 weeks, Fern and Rose go to Fern’s first sonogram. At four months, Rose talks to her about the formal adoption process. Rose also suggests that Fern say that she doesn’t know who the father is so that Wally cannot claim parental rights.
Rose has also gotten increasingly overbearing and constantly asking Fern questions about everything she is doing. When Rose shows up unannounced yet again to the library to check on Fern, Fern finally tells her to leave to Rose’s surprise. Later, Rose gives Fern a gift. Fern thinks to herself that Rose is good at knowing when she’s gotten on Fern’s nerves and getting back into her good graces.
At work, when Fern is definitely showing at 18 weeks, they finally ask her about it, and Fern confirms that she is pregnant. Carmel suggests that Fern help to teach an IT class on troubleshooting because it’ll give Fern an opportunity to be seated for two hours at a time. Fern agrees.
When Fern goes to see her mother, Teresa informs her that her mother has been making some progress on her speech therapy. However, Teresa also warns that her mother has been “confabulating” — making up and talking about false memories — which is common among patients with brain injuries. She says that her mother has been saying very mixed things about Rose. and she’s said that Rose is trying to kill her (which Fern dismisses because Rose hasn’t even seen their mother in years). She’s also been talking about someone named “Billy” and “murder”. That night, Fern tells Rose about what Teresa said.
Fern asks Rose if their mother was really that bad of a mother, and Rose says yes. However, Fern thinks to herself that 90% of her memories of their mother were positive ones.
In Rose’s journal, she writes about the second to last night of their camping trip. Billy and Rose go off by themselves to skip stones. Then, Billy kisses Rose. When Fern finds them, she knows instantly what Rose and Billy were up to, and Rose recalls that she looked furious with Billy, like she could really hurt him.
The next day, there was tension between the three of them. Still, they went out in the water as instructed by their parents. Rose went off briefly to use the bathroom, and when she came back, that’s when she saw what had happened to Billy.
Chapters 41 – 42
Owen is supposed to be coming back soon, but that seems to be pushed off. Later, Rose amends that to say Owen will be back in time for the birth since he’s just finishing up his contract. Later, Owen’s return keeps getting delayed so Rose and Fern take on the tasks like building a crib that Owen was originally supposed to do.
At nine months, Carmel has become very forgiving of allowing Fern to disappear for long stretches of time off in her cupboard, which Fern appreciates. She thinks to herself that she originally thought Carmel was so different from Janet, but actually she now thinks they would have liked each other.
One day, Rose shows up unannounced, saying she must speak to Fern immediately. Rose says that she just got a call from Sun Meadows saying that their mother is dead (Rose says she was listed as the emergency contact). Fern insists that their mother was in good health, but Rose has already sent their mother off for an autopsy so they’ll know soon enough what the cause of death was. Fern also gets upset because apparently their mother died the day before and Rose didn’t tell her until now.
Afterwards, Fern calls Sun Meadows, hoping that this was all a misunderstanding, but they confirm what Rose said. They also mention that Rose finally went to see their mother the night before she died, and Fern feels glad, thinking that must’ve meant so much to their mother.
After hearing this news, Fern sits in her cupboard until Wally shows up at the library as well. He sees that Fern is pregnant, but is not that surprised because Rose has already told him. He says that Rose has been by to see him a few times. Rose has claimed that Fern is in financial trouble, knowing that he’d be willing to help out, but he knows that Rose has only been trying to get money for herself. Fern doesn’t want to believe what he’s saying, but before he leaves he warns Fern that there’s something “very, very wrong” with Rose.
Chapters 43 – 45
After Wally leaves, Fern calls Sun Meadows again. She wants to know if anyone checked on their mother after Rose visited or if Rose was the last one to see her alive. However, the nurse is not sure if the nightly rounds would have been before or after Rose’s visit.
Fern goes into labor, and she heads to the hospital. She’s initially reluctant to tell anyone, but then has them call Rose. As Fern begins delivering the baby, Rose takes care of her and Fern is grateful that she’s there to take care of her.
In Rose’s journal, she writes about trying to save Billy after finding out he’d drowned. To prevent Fern from ending up in jail, Rose had then told Fern to tell people that she saw Billy get tangled up in the reeds which is why he drowned. Fern had agreed.
Chapters 46 – 48
The delivery goes smoothly. Afterwards, Fern asks Rose why she asked Wally for money. Rose says that it’s only fair because he’s the father. Also, Rose mentions that Owen has had second thoughts about raising the baby and will be staying in London indefinitely.
In the late-afternoon, Naomi Davison, an adoption counsellor shows up at the request of Rose. Naomi is here to inform Fern of her rights before giving up her parental rights, such as the difference between open and closed options. She also tells Fern that after signing her consent, she’ll have thirty days to revoke it.
Thinking about the contradictions in Rose and the things she’s recently learned, Fern tells Naomi that she’s not ready to sign the papers today.
In Rose’s journal, she writes about how Billy’s drowning is ruled an accident. Rose thinks about how Fern got away with murder and that she’s dangerous when angry.
Later, Wally shows up, but Rose denies him access to Fern. When he tries to insist, Rose speaks to him outside. She also mentions that Fern is giving the baby up to her and brings up Fern’s incident with Billy. Wally is dismissive of it.
Fern thinks about to what actually happened on the camping trip. Billy had kissed Fern, and Rose had caught them together. She’d been upset. The night day, when Billy had been unable to beat Fern in holding his breath, Rose had suggested to Fern that she help him. Rose kept time on her watch, told Fern to hold him underwater and instructed her as to when let him up.
Afterwards, their mother had asked Fern whether Rose had told her to do it. Rose had then angrily talked about how their mother preferred Fern. Their mother responded that “I don’t hate you, Rose. But it does feel like you’ve spent your life trying to make me prove I love you.”
Chapters 49 – 50
In present day, Fern decides to name the baby Willow. when Rose leaves Fern’s bedside to go to Target to pick up baby clothes, Fern takes the opportunity to grab Willow and escape.
She has a taxi take her to the library, but a short while later, the police show up. Rose also shows up, though Gayle tries to fend her off. The police demand that Fern hand over her baby, saying that she’s been accused of kidnapping her. Fern refuses, but she’s eventually apprehended by the police.
Fern finds herself in the psych ward, and a nurse says that Rose is looking after the baby in the pediatric wing while they sort some things out. Fern insists that she does not want Rose anywhere near the baby, but they reassure her that things will be sorted out soon.
A detective, Detective Sara Brookes, comes in to ask her some questions. Fern initially thinks that it’s because she’s been accused of kidnapping Willow, but Detective Brookes is more interested in asking questions about Rose. She soon clarifies that her interest is in the death of Fern’s mother, which is suspicious. Fern mentions how her mother had advised her not to give Rose her baby.
Detective Brookes leaves, assuring Fern that she’ll deal with the baby situation. Then, to Fern’s surprise, Owen shows up. Owen says that he left Rose, and that he hasn’t been in London, but in Brunswick. He thinks Rose made up all this stuff because she’s a narcissist and possible has a borderline personality disorder (he also indicates that Rose has been like this throughout their relationship and it’s why it ended). He mentions how Rose hasn’t been able to hold down a job for longer than a year and the mind games she played with him.
It turns out Owen was the man that had been looking for her many months ago. He stopped looking for Fern because he assumed Fern didn’t want to see him. He showed up today because Rose had called him saying that Fern was pregnant and that they should raise the baby together, so he knew someone needed to check on Fern. Before he leaves, Owen comments that Rose is unwell and that Fern shouldn’t give her the baby.
Chapters 51 – 53
When Detective Brookes returns, she clarifies to Fern that (obviously) she can’t be arrested for taking her own baby somewhere. Instead, the police showed up because her sister said she’d suddenly left the hospital which is why they tracked her down at the library.
Meanwhile, Detective Brookes has also concluded that Fern’s mother’s autopsy report indicates foul play. They found two “hypodermic injection sites” just under her hairline. While there was no traces of poison in her blood, when Fern mentioned that Rose was diabetic, they realized that Rose likely overdosed her with insulin to kill her. Given how much Rose wanted Fern’s baby, their mother trying to convince Fern not to hand it over to Rose is likely the motive for the killing.
Next, Wally shows up, who was informed by Carmel that she was here. Fern tells him that the baby is his, and Wally assures her that he’s happy about it. He says that when Fern asked about him wanting kids, it was just a theoretical question, but now things are different.
They are interrupted by a hospital administrator, Nadine Riley, who brings in Willow now that Rose has been taken away. Fern takes her into her arms.
Later, Wally tells Fern that he sold FollowUp for a lot of money, dwarfing the Shout! exit. Fern also admits that she initially planned to get pregnant with the purpose of helping Rose. Wally suggests that Rose manipulated Fern. Rose knew that if Fern found out she was trying unsuccessfully to have a baby, that Fern would step in to try to help.
Chapters 54 – 55
As the days pass, Rose is waiting arraignment, but Fern has still not gone to see her yet.
A week after being released from the hospital, Detective Brookes asks Fern to come in to the station. Wally suggests that Fern tell the Detective about her sensory issues and to Fern’s surprise, she learns that Detective Brookes has a son with similar issues and is happy to accommodate her. Moreover, Fern is learning that many people are willing to do so, whereas before she’d assumed that Rose was the only one willing to take care of her.
At the station, Detective Brookes shows Fern the diary which Rose wrote, likely with the intention of laying the groundwork to say that Fern is incapable of caring for her baby and to possibly make her seem like the most likely suspect to murder their mother. As Fern reads the “diary”, she sees that the entries all twist the truth or are total fabrications. In many stories about their mother flying off the handle, it was really Rose who got upset over something.
Later, Fern talks to Wally about it. She notes that she thinks the story about Gary may have been true. Fern recalls that Gary had once acted inappropriately with her (Fern), but she’d kneed him in the groin and he hadn’t tried again.
They also talk about the Billy incident. Wally points out that Rose was the one who was keeping time to make sure Billy was underwater for less than 40 seconds, so it’s possible she purposely had Fern hold him down for longer.
Chapters 56 – 47
Three months later, Fern is at a baby play session with noise-cancelling headphones and tinted goggles on, to help with her sensory perception issues. Wally wears them, too, to make her feel less conspicuous. Now, some of the toddlers who find the event too loud are wearing them too.
Fern has started seeing a therapist named Kevin, and she still hasn’t visited Rose.
As for Rose, she is in prison awaiting trial. In her journal, she writes the truth about what happened.
Rose writes about being angry that Billy had flirted with her, but then ended up kissing Fern. She recalls how after the Billy incident, her mother had become despondent about what had happened. Her mother had started taking sedatives, and Rose had taken the opportunity to inject her with an overdose of insulin. It had resulted in brain damage, but her mother didn’t die.
Rose also talks about how she knew Fern would offer to have the baby on Rose’s behalf if she knew about Rose’s struggles. Rose has been grooming Fern to be entirely reliant on her by making Fern believe that she is forgetful. For a long time, Rose has been making stuff up (such as with saying that Fern forgot to feed Alfie) to make Fern think she was unreliable.
Meanwhile, with Wally, Rose was hoping to later track him down and demand millions in child support.
Rose also recalls her last interaction with her mother. Her mom had been happy to see her, but then she’d said “don’t take Fern’s baby” which angered Rose and prompted the murder. This time, Rose made sure the overdose of insulin would kill her.
After writing all of this (the truth), Rose then tears it all up. Starting anew, she plans to write a new version (lies). The book closes with Rose planning to write a new journal with falsehoods to implicate Fern in their mother’s death.
She’s going to write about how Fern started asking her about how to administer insulin, how Fern resented having to visit their mom all the time, and about how Fern had borrowed her bracelet a few months ago (e.g. pretended to be Rose when visiting their mom to kill her)…