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The Plot

Quick Recap & Summary By Chapter

The Full Book Recap and Chapter-by-Chapter Summary for The Plot by Jean Hanff Korelitz are below.

Quick(-ish) Recap

The one-paragraph version: Jake writes a bestselling book based on a plot told to him by his MFA student, Evan Parker, who ends up dying soon after. When Jake starts getting anonymous messages calling him a "thief", he begins to investigate and learns that the story was true and based on Evan's family. In the story, a mother (Evan's sister) and daughter (Evan's niece) dislike each other. The mother ends up killing the daughter and taking her place. Jake figures out that the anonymous messages are likely from Evan's sister who murdered her own daughter (plus her parents and Evan). He goes home to tell his wife, but it turns out his wife is Evan's sister, who married him on purpose to take back her story. She murders Jake and inherits his books and estate.

In Part I, the book introduces Jacob "Jake" Finch Bonner, a once-promising writer who now teaches for a third-rate MFA program. As the school year begins, a new student, Evan Parker, comes into his class arrogantly and obnoxiously claiming that he has a work in progress with an amazing plot that's sure to become a great novel. Jake is skeptical when he reads an excerpt -- which describes a daughter and her mother living in an old house. But when Evan describes the plot, Jake realizes that this book will be everything Evan claims it will be.

Part II jumps forward two and a half years. Jake is now working three jobs after the MFA program he teaches at went online-only and reduced his salary. One day, Jake looks online to see what happened with Evan's book and learns that Evan died soon after their workshop class ended, meaning Evan likely never had time to complete his novel.

In Part III, Jake has now published Crib, a major bestseller soon to be adapted into a movie by Steven Spielberg, written based off of Evan's plot. He meets and marries a woman named Anna. However, Jake starts getting anonymous messages from someone going by "Talented Tom" calling him a "thief" and saying they know what Jake stole the novel. The situation escalates until his publisher's legal team has to get involved.

Meanwhile, excerpts from Crib are interspersed throughout the chapters, revealing more of its story. It jumps back in time to a young Samantha (the mother character) getting pregnant by her mother's boss at 15. She's forced by her religious parents to keep the baby. At 16, she has the child, Maria (the daughter character).

When the Talented Tom rumors start to gain traction in the media, Jake realizes it needs to be dealt with. He goes to the town in Vermont where Evan is from to research about his family. Jake learns that Evan's parents and sister are dead, but the sister (Dianna) had a child (Rose) who is alive. Jake believes Talented Tom is likely that surviving child.

As the excerpts from Crib continue, Maria grows up and Samantha's parents die of natural causes. Maria has to fend for herself for most of her childhood. She ends up smart and eager to leave town like her mother. However, their relationship is distant and full of mutual resentment. When Samantha learns from Maria's teacher that Maria is graduating early and attending college on scholarship, Samantha is upset that Maria didn't bother to tell her.

In Vermont, when Jake sees Evan's house, he realizes that Evan's story is not fictional at all, but rather the true story of his sister and niece. When Anna gets a letter from Tom about the accusations, Jake reluctantly tells her the truth about the situation.

Meanwhile in the story, the night Maria is about to leave, she finally tells Samantha about her departure only because she wants to borrow the car. Samantha is angry and the two get into an argument, with Maria bitterly deriding the notion that Samantha ever cared about her. Without thinking, Samantha grabs her, resulting in Maria's head slamming into a bedpost. Samantha then packs up Maria's things and buries her outside a remote cabin in another state.

In Part IV, Jake heads to Athens, Georgia where he'd heard Rose had last been. He confirms with the school registrar's office that she was a student at UGA for one year. The cleaning lady where Rose had lived says her mother had died in a fire on camping grounds nearby. A newspaper article confirms this, except it describes Dianna as her sister and says that Rose was 26.

In the final excerpts from Crib, Samantha goes to college in place of Maria. One day, Maria's former girlfriend shows up, but Samantha kills her, too.

In Athens, Jake pieces together that Dianna had driven Rose to college, where they stayed on a campgrounds. Dianna killed Rose in a fire and told the locals that the victim was her (Dianna). Dianna in turn claimed to be her 26-year-old sister (because she knew she couldn't pass for 16). From there, Dianna left to take Rose's place in college.

When Jake gets home, Anna gives him soup that turns out to be spiked with drugs. As Jake gets sleepy and groggy, Anna admits that she is Dianna (as well as Talented Tom). She killed her parents out of bitterness about them forcing her to keep the baby. Then, after she killed Rose in the fire (and told everyone else it was her own death), she took over Maria's life at UGA. One day Evan comes looking Rose and sees that Dianna is alive. Instead of doing anything about it, he realizes what has happened and he goes home and starts writing this story. Dianna follows him home and kills him, too.

After telling Jake this story, Anna leaves him for dead.

In the Epilogue, Jake is now deceased. Anna tells everyone it was a suicide as a result of being harassed over false accusations regarding the Talented Tom rumors. As his widow, Anna inherits his books and the proceeds from the story she feels he stole from her.

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Chapter-by-Chapter Summary

Part I
Part II
Part III
Part IV

Part I

Chapter 1: Anybody Can Be a Writer

Jacob “Jake” Finch Bonner is an author who previously wrote a novel, The Invention of Wonder, that made it onto the New York Times Book Review “New & Noteworthy” book list. Jake has always wanted to be a respected writer, though perhaps he’s was a bit more enthralled by the trappings of being a writer (the book signings, the fans, etc.) than the writing itself. By now, his literary star has dimmed. His second book, a collection of stories was quietly published by a university press. Most people believe he still hasn’t finished a next novel. Instead, the truth is he wrote two additional novels, but they received a pile of rejections.

He currently teaches at Ripley College where he’s a professor for the Master of Fine Arts Program in Fiction, Poetry, and Personal Non-Fiction (Memoir) program, which is housed in Richard Peng Hall. When he started teaching, he liked the idea of becoming a “great teacher”, but now he views his students bitterly, thinking them all less talented than they believe.

Chapter 2: The Hero’s Welcome

Today, Jake attends a faculty meeting followed by a welcome cookout to kick off the new school year. Alice Logan, a new professor of poetry, approaches him to complement his novel. She also mentions that they attended the same MFA program.

Jake thinks about how that MFA program was more prestigious than the one he currently teaches at. Before that, he had worked at a (sub-par) literary agency, reading stuff from the slush pile. He’d once managed to identify one book with real potential, but his bosses ignored it. Instead, it later got published by someone else and later optioned to be adapted into a movie starring Sandra Bullock. Jacob thinks about how he had “always known a good plot when he saw one”. He left that job to do his MFA and drafted The Invention of Wonder at that time.

As he chats with Alice, they are interrupted by a blond student who Jake notices has clearly already become an alpha-male among his peers.

Chapter 3: Evan Parker/Parker Evan

The blond student turns out to be Evan Parker, who shows up in Jake’s 9-student seminar class (1-st year prose fiction workshop). In class, Evan says that he’s planning on writing as “Parker Evan”. He also obnoxiously announces that he has a work that’s making very good progress and that he’s sure it’s got a great plot (so good that even a lousy writer couldn’t mess it up). He insists that he doesn’t need anyone’s help, that he’s not sure good writing can be taught and that he’s mostly in the program to get a degree and possibly help him find an agent.

Chapter 4: A Sure Thing

When Jake takes a look at Evan’s writing sample, Jake sees that Evan is actually a very good, natural writer. Still, Jake feels sure that based on this sample that the plot for Evan’s book couldn’t possible be as amazing as he had made it out to be. The sample describes a mother, Diandra, and a daughter, Ruby, in an old house that seem to loathe one another, without hinting at what the plot of the story is really about.

In the sample, Diandra is upstairs doing her work as a psychic (by the name of Sister Dee Dee) on psychic hotline. Meanwhile, Ruby is is a determined 15-year-old student, who is in the 11th grade, having skipped kindergarten. They live in an old house that once belonged to Ruby’s grandparents. Ruby attends an “unambitious rural school”, so she also takes classes at the local community college. Ruby has been largely taking care of herself since she was young, and she is desperate to leave this place and go to college. In addition to school, Ruby works two part time jobs. Ruby contributes half of her pay to help around the house, but saves the rest.

After reading it for the third time, Jake meets with Evan to discuss. Evan is more interested in discussing how to get an agent than how to improve his writing. When Evan brags about how the book likely to be widely read and turned into a movie, Jake reminds him that those things aren’t the only indicators of success, and he gently reminds Evan that his book may not be all that he hopes.

Finally, Evan stops him by tells him the plot of his story, and Jake realizes that Evan was right and that everyone will read this book. Jake feels despondent knowing Evan’s story is so much better than the book that he’s working on.

Part II

Chapter 5: Exile

Two and a half years later, Jake is now working at the Adlon Center for the Creative Arts in Sharon Springs, New York as a Program Coordinator. The Adlon Center is essentially a hotel that serves as a $1,000-dollar-a-week artists’ colony. Currently, there are six guests, all aspiring writers, staying there.

In 2013, Ripley College MFA program became online-only, and Jake had to continue with a severely reduced salary. He started doing additional freelance editing work. However, even with that income combined, he could no longer afford to live in New York. Instead, Jake got his current job, which he does in addition to the editing and work for Ripley.

Chapter 6: What Terrible Thing

Today, a guest from California is angry about the food an accommodations. As the man complains, Jake is reminded of Evan Parker. He thinks about how Evan’s book doesn’t appear to have been published yet, but he’s certain it will be immensely successful when it does happen. Comparatively, Jake then thinks about how he (himself) has now become a failed writer.

Chapter 7: Tap, tap

That night, Jake searches online for Evan Parker and any trace of him or his book. He wonders why it hasn’t been published yet. Finally, he comes across some information: an obituary. It states that Evan Parker had died unexpectedly a few months after the Ripley workshop class ended. Jake realizes that Evan likely never had a chance to finish his book.

Part III

Chapter 8: Crib Syndrome

Three years later, Jake’s second novel Crib has now sold over two million copies and spent nine months at the #1 spot on the New York Times Bestseller list. Instead of Evan’s Diandra and Ruby, Crib’s main characters are Samantha and Maria, but it’s the same story.

Today, he’s at the S. Mark Taper Foundation Auditorium of the Seattle Symphony for a book reading. He’s been traveling frequently to various events with Otis, the liason Macmillan (his publisher) sent with him, since the book came out. During the Q&A, someone asks him how he got the idea, and he wonders if somewhere out there someone knows the truth about where he’d stolen the plot from.

Chapter 9: Not the Worst

The next morning, Jake heads to the Sunrise Seattle studio for an interview on the morning radio with host Randy Johnson. The producer, an attractive 35-year-old woman named Anna Williams, greets him at the studio. During the interview, he and Randy briefly talk about the plot of the book, how Steven Spielberg is planning on directing the movie adaptation of Crib, etc. When it ends, Randy says that the interview was Anna’s idea. Afterwards, Anna asks Jake to coffee, and he says yes.

Chapter 10: Utica

They end up at a chain coffee shop called Storyville, which overlooks the Public Market sign. Anna talks about how she grew up in Northern Idaho. As a child, she had a bad situation at home and ended up being informally adopted by one of her teachers, Miss Royce. Anna admits she’s a fan of his and that she was at the reading last night as well.

Afterwards, Jake checks his messages sees an alarming one, sent from someone at via his website contact form earlier that morning. It reads: “You are a thief.”

Excerpt from pages 3-4 of Crib

At 15, Samantha (the equivalent of Diandra) finds out she’s pregnant (with the child later to become Maria/Ruby).

Samantha’s mother works as a housekeeper at the College Inn, nearby. Samantha’s father works on the maintenance staff at Hamilton College. Her father’s position guarantees Samantha admission and financial aid at the college, but now she realizes that the pregnancy means she will have no future.

Chapter 11: Talented Tom

As his events wrap up, Jake eventually returns to New York. Since meeting Anna, they’ve had nearly daily contact. But he soon receives another message from that reads: “You are a thief. We both know it.” Jake doesn’t wonder what these messages are about. He knows that “Talented Tom” is a reference to the character Tom Ripley from Patricia Highsmith’s most famous novel and a thinly veiled reference to Ripley College where he’d met Evan Parker.

The next message he receives a while later reads: “I know you stole your ‘novel’ and I know who you stole it from.” Then, towards the end of October, he gets a fourth message: “What will Oprah say when she finds out about you? At least James Frey had the decency to steal from himself.”

Finally, a few days after that a fifth saying: “I’m on Twitter now. Thought you’d like to know. @TalentedTom”. Jake logs on to Twitter to see an account with no followers, no tweets and no profile picture that simply says “Writer” in the description. With Talented Tom preparing to ramp up his efforts, Jake realizes he needs to figure out who he’s dealing with.

Chapter 12: I’m Nobody. Who Are You?

First, Jake goes about trying to confirm that Evan Parker is, in fact, dead. Online there’s a memorial and the many messages from people seem to confirm that impression. One message is from someone named Martin Purcell who knew Evan from the MFA program. As Jake researches, he also discovers an unofficial alumni page for the Ripley MFA students and a message about a bar Evan owned called Parker Tavern in Rutland. According to the internet, it’s under new management following the owner’s death. It appears as though Evan overdosed from drugs.

Jake reaches out to Martin, asking to talk, and Martin calls him immediately, thrilled to be contacted by a famous author. Jake asks Martin about Evan under the guise of having just recently learned about Evan’s death. Martin doesn’t have much information, and he doesn’t know any of the particulars about the book Evan had been working on. Martin mentions that Evan’s parents and sister are dead and that he has a niece, but Jake already knew all that from the obituary.

Excerpt from pages 23-25 of Crib

Samantha refuses to tell her parents who the father of the baby is. In actuality, the baby’s father is Daniel Weybridge, who is Samantha’s mother’s boss and the proprietor of the College Inn. Daniel was married and three kids. Daniel had been after Samantha for at least a year, dropping flattering complements. When she finally followed him into one of the hotel rooms, he had lied to Samantha, claiming he’d had a vasectomy.

Chapter 13: Hurl Away

Jake’s agent, Matilda Salter, inquires over the phone about him submitting a draft of his next book. Matilda is a bit of a pushy agent, which is exactly why he wanted her in the first place to represent Crib. He reassures her that he’s working on the next book.

Afterwards, Anna texts Jake and suggests that she visit him in New York, and Jake eagerly agrees. Soon, they decide on her coming to stay for a week at the end of the month.

Chapter 14: Something Out of a Novel

Anna arrives towards the end of November, and they barely leave the apartment for the next few days. The days after that, Anna starts to explore the city while he works during the day, meeting up with her in the late afternoon. They talk about Anna possibly moving to New York.

One night, over dinner, Jake asks Anna about her childhood. She describes how her mother had committed suicide by driving into a lake when she and her sister were young. Her mother’s sister then became responsible for the two of them, but she was someone who was barely able to care for herself, much less two young children. Anna’s sister had soon stopped going to school.

Anna’s teacher, Miss Royce, ended up offering to let Anna stay with her instead. Anna had asked her sister to come, too, but her sister refused. Then one day, Anna’s sister and aunt left town, and Anna has no idea where they went or what became of them. As for Anna, she ended up going to college at the University of Washington. Then, she spent almost a decade on on Whidbey Island working for a small radio station before eventually ending up in Seattle.

Excerpt from pages 36-38 of Crib

Samantha wants to get an abortion. However, her parents are Christians, and she knows that they will be against the idea. They also have veto power because Samantha is still a minor.

She also considers adoption, but her parents are against that too. They believe God meant for it to be this way, and that Samantha needs to live with the consequences of her decision.

Samantha ends up dropping out of school after being put on bed rest during month 4 due to high blood pressure. She spends the next five months in bed.

Chapter 15: Why Would She Change Her Mind?

In mid-December, the user @TalentedTom starts tweeting, saying that “@JacobFinchBonner is a not the author of #Crib” and similar tweets.

Meanwhile, Anna goes back to Seattle for a while, but soon returns. Jake takes her to meet his family in Long Island over Hanukkah. Anna’s Seattle apartment has now been sublet, and in New York, she finds a new job as a producer on a Sirius show covering the tech industry.

Jake and Anna are happy, and Anna goes with him to book events when she can. They get a cat and name it Whidbey. They go to see Hamilton. Anna is more open to strangers than he is, and Jake finds that soon more people are welcomed into his life. They meet monthly with Jake’s parents, who quickly come to love Anna. Jake’s dad encourages him to propose.

However, all the while, @TalentedTom continues tweeting away his accusations. Jake worries about whether he’ll lose Anna if the truth ever comes out. Jake worries about if and when someone will finally ask him about @TalentedTom.

Chapter 16: Only the Most Successful Writers

In February, @TalentedTom has now created a Facebook profile under the name Tom Talent. The first post reads: “Blindsided by that big twist in Crib? Here’s another one: Jacob Finch Bonner stole his novel from another writer.” It ends up being this post that finally catches people’s attention. Someone tweets asking if anyone knows what this rumor is about, and eventually Jake is called into a meeting with his editor Wendy, Matlida and the rest of the team.

Matilda mentions the accusations, though she’s dismissive of them. She says it’s normal for popular authors to have these accusations levied at them, though she still wants to pull in the legal department to ensure they’re all on the same page.

At the meeting, Matilda asks Jake point-blank whether there’s any truth or basis to the accusations. Jake flat-out says no. Matilda asks him about draft and notes, and Jake confirms he can produce them. The group also discusses how @TalentTom claims Jake stole the “story”, but their in-house attorney Alessandro F. Guarise confirms that you “can’t copyright a plot”. Still, Jake lies and assures them that he’d never come across this story before writing it himself.

Next, they discuss whether to ignore it or do something about it, like trying to get it taken down or trying to get him to stop by accusing him of defamation or something. They also discuss various avenues to file suit against the guy. Overall, Matilda reassures Jake that they’ll deal with it.

Excerpt from pages 43-44 of Crib

Samantha gives birth to Maria.

Chapter 17: An Unfortunate Side Effect of Success

Alessandro soon issue a note, warning TalentedTom to cease and desist his postings, threatening to sue. For a few days things are quiet, but soon TalentedTom sends a message everyone — from Jake’s publisher, to his social media channels, to reporters, etc. — reciting the same message about Jake not being “rightful owner of the story he wrote”.

Jake is asked to comment by parties looking to follow up on the story. Still, within the publishing industry, Jake gets a lot of messages of support as well, reassuring him that it’ll all pass eventually.

Excerpt from pages 71-73 of Crib

Two years later, Samantha’s father has a medical episode and dies. While it makes the family less secure, Samantha is at least able to inherit his car to drive.

As time passes, Maria enters kindergarten and is a bit of a “surly child’, a picky eater who prefers looking at books to playing with the other kids. By now, Samantha’s former classmates have graduated. Samantha’s anger over her life fades into a kind of “low-grade disappointment”.

Chapter 18: Another Day’s Lies

A few weeks later, Jake’s team at Macmillan meets again to discuss, generally agreeing there’s not much else to do be done and to hopefully let it pass. They encourage Jake to focus on getting his new novel done.

Amazingly, Jake is soon able to do just that. While it clearly did not have the potential to do as well as Crib, it was an acceptable follow-up, and Matilda and Wendy were happy with it.

By now, Anna has been living in New York for six months. They go out to dinner to celebrate, but Anna notes that something has been wrong with Jake and asks if she can help somehow. As she continues to pry, Jake tries to change the topic. Instead, he talks about how he appreciates her. As she talks, he realizes what’s really bothering her.

Finally, Jake proposes. She happily accepts, and soon they are both drunk and happy.

Chapter 19: The Only Place Left to Go

Jake and Anna soon get a ring and get married at City Hall, with a handful of friends and family in attendance. A week later, Matilda takes them out to celebrate, and she and Anna hit it off. When the topic of TalentedTom almost comes up, Jake manages to head it off. Anna changes her name to Anna Williams-Bonner, and they end up going on a short honeymoon to New Orleans.

Then, one night, Jake sees a letter addressed to him at their house that is from Talented Tom. He’s immediately panicked and opens it to find a warning saying: “You know what you did. I know what you did. Are you ready for everyone to know what you did? I hope so, because I’m getting ready to tell the world. Have fun with your career after that.”

With that, Jake knows something needs to be done, and he suspects the answer is connected to Ripley somehow. Jake finally reaches out to Martin, again, who had previously asked Jake to look over some of his work. Jake says he’s going to be in Vermont and offers to meet up in person to discuss, and Martin eagerly accepts.

Excerpt from page 98 of Crib

Around the time when Maria is ten, Samantha’s mother develops a lump in her breast which she ignores until it is too late. After two rounds of chemo, her mother decides not to continue. She passes away four months later.

Samantha moves into her parents’ room while Maria is moved into Samantha’s childhood bedroom. Maria becomes increasingly independent as she grows up, figuring out how to get herself fed and what’s needed around the house by the time she’s nine. When Maria is 11, the school offers to let her skip a grade, but Samantha declines.

Chapter 20: Nobody Comes to Rutland

Jake heads for Vermont and meets up with Martin Purcell at a the Birdseye Diner, near the inn Jake is staying at. As they talk, Jake brings up Evan, trying to get information. Martin re-iterates that Evan had never cared much for the community at MFA program and didn’t seem to share his work with others. Eventually, Martin mentions that Evan hated his diseased sister, though he doesn’t know why.

Chapter 21: Boo-hoo, So Sad

Next, Jake heads to the Parker Tavern. He ends up talking to a woman named Sally, who says the bar belongs to her brother-in-law. She mentions that she grew up with the previous over (Evan). She tells him that Evan was a few years older than her and had dated her sister, along with a bunch of other people in town. She adds that he just might be her nephew’s father.

Sally says that Evan knew everyone around here. When Jake brings up Evan writing a novel, Sally laughs, saying that Evan could never write a novel and that he probably never even read a book.

Soon, the bartender, Jerry Hastings, joins in on their conversation. Jerry talks about how Evan had been a drug addict. His parents had a huge house but died of a carbon monoxide leak when they were in high school. Evan’s sister had been a “piece of work”, but died a few years ago in a fire.

Before Jake leaves, Sally mentions that Evan’s sister had a kid that’s still alive, but the girl left home, location unknown, the minute she could.

Excerpt from pages 146-147 of Crib

Maria grows up to be much like her mother — smart, determined to leave and physically similar. However, Maria was a lesbian which seemed to ensure she wouldn’t end up like her mother. She’s also less willing to please others than her mother and seems to have a fairly detached attitude about friendships and people in general. At 13, Maria teaches herself to drive and drives herself to pick up her learner’s permit.

Chapter 22: Hospitality

The next day, Jake goes looking for the Parker house based on what he’d been told, despite not having the exact address. When he finds it, he sees it’s a stunning, three-story house with a marble base.

Soon, a woman of the house, Betty, pulls up next to him. When Jake says he knew the former owner, Evan, Betty offers to let him take a look inside. Inside, Betty introduces him to her partner, Sylvia, who is star struck by Jake being a famous author. Upon request, Jake tells them about meeting Oprah and the forthcoming movie adaptation.

They tell him how the house was pretty run down before they got their hands on it. They also point out the bedroom where Evan died. As they gossip about the Parker family, they talk about how Evan had financial problems.

A week after his death, his niece put the house up for sale without cleaning any stuff out. When Betty and Sylvia moved in, they asked her to take the stuff away (via the attorney William Gaylord, Esquire), but she never responded. Instead, they threw everything out.

As he walks around the house, he sees the pineapples design in one part the house, just like in Evan’s original story. With that, Jake understands that Evan’s story was about the people he knew. Evan had stolen his sister and niece’s story, and then it had been stolen again by Jake. The niece was likely understandably angry that this story had been taken from her and told to the public.

Excerpt from pages 178-180 of Crib

Maria starts dating a girl named Gab, and Samantha is accepting of their relationship. Samantha also recognizes that her daughter is continuing to drift away from her and will be gone soon.

When Maria is a junior, Samantha is asked to sign some papers to allow Maria to graduate early to attend Ohio State on scholarship. Samantha is surprised to learn all of this from Maria’s teacher instead of from Maria herself. She realizes that Maria will be gone even sooner than she’d realized, likely by August. A part of her had hoped that she and Maria would have changed course and become closer at some point, but Samantha now sees it’s not going to happen.

When summer rolls around, Maria has still not said anything about leaving, though Samantha notices that Maria seems to be packing up her stuff.

Chapter 23: Sole Survivor

Thinking through what he’d learned, Jake heads to the Rutland Free Library to learn more about Evan Parker, his niece and his family.

The Parker family first arrived in the area in the 1850’s. Soon the family patriarch owned a marble quarry and built their family mansion, the one now owned by Betty and Sylvia. Evan’s parents were Nathaniel Parker and Jane Thatcher Parker. Evan’s sister was Dianna Parker and died three years before Evan. Her daughter’s name was Rose Parker.

Jake tries to find a photo of either woman online or in the yearbooks, but comes up empty. The only photo he finds is blurry one of Rose as a 10th grader in a team photo.

Next, Jake heads to Rose’s attorney William Gaylord’s offices in Rutland. At the office, Jake says he’s interested in real estate in the area. When the two men meet, William recognizes Jake’s name, saying his wife read his book. As they talk, Jake gently steers the conversation over to the topic of the Parker mansion, expressing regret that it had already been sold. William mentions that the seller was based in Georgia, attending college there.

Chapter 24: The Breakdown Lane

Jake is driving when Anna calls about a letter she received from “Tom” with accusations about him. The letter says that Evan Parker is the real author of Crib, and Anna ended up going online to find out the extent of the rumors that had been circulating.

Anna is upset that he didn’t tell her about any of it. When Jake arrives at home, Anna demands to know the truth, and Jake tells her. He says that Evan was his student, who told him the plot of his book. Evan died, and Jake wrote his book based on that plot.

Jake also admits that he went to Vermont to track down information about Evan. He says that he thinks the story he thought was fictional appears to have been about Evan’s own sister and niece. As he talks, Anna’s anger fades, and she reminds him that she’s on his side.

Excerpt from pages 212-213 of Crib

After weeks of not speaking, Maria finally announces one night that she’s moving out for college and asks to borrow her mother’s car. She says she’ll return it after she drops off her stuff and then take the bus back. Samantha demands to know why Maria has never said anything about any of it. As the two begin to argue, Maria says that Samantha has never cared to be a good parent.

Finally, not thinking about what she’s doing, Samantha grabs Maria and flings her against the wall, with Maria’s head slamming again the bedpost with a loud crack. Samantha feels oddly calm, thinking about everything she’d given up for Maria and the lack of love she’d received in return.

Then, Samantha packs up Maria’s things, plus some of her own, and heads West. She finds a remote cabin and pays cash to rent it for a week. She buries her daughter outside, and then she leaves.

Part IV

Chapter 25: Athens, Georgia

The next day, Jake tells Anna that he needs to go to Georgia, though she disapproves of him continuing to pursue this cloak-and-dagger stuff. Jack had identified someone named Rose Parker that was the right age and had lived in Athens, Georgia, a city that also housed a big university. He’d also managed to get the name of address of Rose’s attorney, also in Georgia.

When he lands in Atlanta, he finds out his new book has now gone into production. He soon heads for the UGA campus in Athens.

Chapter 26: Poor Rose

At the UGA registrar’s office, he’s able to confirm that Rose Parker had enrolled in Fall 2012 and had an off-campus address. However, she was no enrolled as of Fall 2013.

Next, Jake goes to see Rose’s lawyer in Georgia, Arthur Pickens, who immediately recognizes his name and tells him that he can’t tell him anything due to attorney-client privilege. Jake has thoroughly researched this attorney and threatens to expose things like Arthur’s DUI, a cheating incident involving Arthur’s college frat and a scandal involving a barely-legal teen, but the attorney insists that Jake leave.

Still, Jake tells Arthur to let Rose know that he’s learned some things about her and has questions about Evan’s untimely death that he’s willing to take to the police if she doesn’t stop harassing him.

After that, Jake goes to the address he found for Rose, an apartment complex called Athena Gardens. He brings up Rose Parker (claiming that she’s his cousin’s daughter), but the woman there doesn’t recognize her name. The cleaner, however, remembers Rose clearly. She says she was very mature for her age. Rose’s mother died in a fire when they were sleeping in a tent in Georgia on the way down from Vermont to Georgia. The cleaner mentions an age difference between her and the other students, but doesn’t specify to what extent.

Finally, Jake shows the cleaner the photo he has of Rose, but the cleaner insists it wasn’t her.

Excerpt from pages 245-246 of Crib

Samantha returned a few times over the next year, telling people how great Maria was doing at Ohio State. Meanwhile, Gab had been trying to contact Maria, but to no avail.

When Gab sees that Samantha is back, she asks about Maria, and Samantha says that Maria is seeing someone else now. Soon. Samantha sells the house and leaves.

Chapter 27: Foxfire

When Jake talks to Anna next, he tells her he can’t come back yet, and she’s upset. However, he insists that there’s more to uncover here in Georgia. Afterwards, he tracks down a news story about Dianna’s death. It says that the fire occurred on the Foxfire Campground. It also names Dianna Parker, 32, as the victim, and it names Rose Parker as her 26-year-old sister.

Anna suggests that perhaps it’s just a mistake or typo that Rose was described as being 26 (instead of 16) or that it says she’s her sister. However, Jake thinks there’s more to it.

Jake makes his way to the Foxfire Campground and asks about the fire that had taken place there. The guy there, Mike, remembers it clearly and offers to drive him out to the spot. Mike explains that the two women had a propane heater with them, which is likely what started the fire. Mike notes that the campgrounds are fairly spread out and that there’s no cell reception out here to call for help.

Afterwards, Jake offers to buy dinner for Mike and Roy, the coroner, in order to talk. They meet at the Clayton Café. Roy explains that by the time by arrived, the tent had burned down and the body was completely charred. Jake asks whether a DNA test was done on the body, but Roy says there was someone there to make an identification and DNA tests aren’t done in those circumstances.

According to the woman who survived, she went out to go to the bathroom at night and she thinks she may have knocked over the heater on the way out. Roy tells him that the scene and his interactions were all consistent with what he would’ve expected based on the circumstances that were described. The people around there arranged for the body to be buried in the area.

Finally, as Roy asks about Jake’s interest in the case, Jake shows him the photo of Rose Parker, who Roy says he hasn’t seen before. Jake says that Rose Parker is the one who died. She was 16. Dianna wasn’t her sister, but her mother. Rose never made it to college, but rather is buried here.

When Jake tells them this, Roy laughs, recognizing that plot from Jake’s book. Roy thinks Jake read the book and convinced himself that’s what happened here. Dismissing Jake’s comments, Roy and Mike leave.

Chapter 28: The End of the Line

After Jake leaves the restaurant, he heads for the cemetery where the body is buried. He sees the plot marked as Dianna Parker, 1980-2012. He takes a photograph and sends it to his wife, noting that it’s actually Rose Parker’s grave.

Jake thinks about how his next book could be a meta-narrative about this experience, even if it means coming clean about having stolen th4 plot of his book from Evan Parker.

Excerpt from page 280 of Crib

Samantha ends up as a student at OSU, living off-campus. One day Gab shows up looking for Maria. Gab says that she has cut ties with everyone at home, packed stuff up and is heading out West. The last thing she wants to do is to get “closure” from Maria.

Samantha tells Gab that Maria is on campus, but offers to buy a pizza for the three of them for when Maria gets back. Then, later in the kitchen she crushes up peanuts to place under the pepperoni slices, knowing that Gab is allergic.

Chapter 29: Such a Waste of Energy

Back at home, Jake is happy to see Anna. He drinks her homemade soup while he tells her what he’s discovered. As he drinks the soup, he starts to feel sleepy and his mind feels groggy.

When Anna mentions that her mother had taught her how to make the soup, Jake is confused. He asks her how that’s possible if her mother died when she was so young. Anna finally starts laughing, pointing out that she stole her whole backstory from the plot of Housekeeping by Marilynne Robinson.

By now, Jake is struggling to think at all.

Chapter 30: That Novelist’s Eye for Detail

Anna gives him some pills. He doesn’t want to take them, but feels unable to resist. Then, she finally admits that she is Dianna, Evan’s sister. She bitterly recounts how Evan had been sleeping around with everyone and getting girls pregnant, but when it happened to her, her parents felt the need to punish her by forcing her to keep the baby.

After Evan leaves, Anna/Dianna kills her parents, by purposely putting dead batteries into the carbon monoxide alarm. After that, it was just her and the baby. Anna/Dianna thought they could be happy together, but the baby never showed her any affection. Finally, one day out of the blue, her daughter says she’s leaving. Anna/Dianna offers to take her, but then kills her, taking over her identity.

At some point Evan goes to Georgia, looking for Rose since he wants to sell the house (at this point Evan believes that his sister Dianna is dead and that Rose survived) due to his own financial troubles. But he comes back to see that Dianna is alive.

Instead of doing anything about it, he leaves and moves back into the house. Dianna then sees that he has signed up for a writing program. Dianna eventually returns home and sees that he’s written 200 pages of this story about her. She takes her stuff, finds his drugs, drugs Evan and Evan dies. She then sells the house and moves to Seattle until one day she hears about Evan’s book.

Anna’s plan then becomes to marry him, kill him and essentially get back her story, for legal purposes anyway (as his widow). She also imagines that his next book will do well, so she will have the proceeds for that as well.

After explaining all of this, Anna leaves Jake to die.


The epilogue picks up after Jake has died. Anna attends an event in his place. She talks about his “suicide” and how he’d been depressed after having to defend himself against baseless accusations of plagiarism.

Anna then tells the audience that she’s planning on staying in New York and that Macmillan is republishing Jake’s first two novels in his honor.

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Bookshelf -- A literary set collection game