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The Push

Recap & Book Summary



The Quick Recap and Section-by-Section Summary for The Push by Ashley Audrain are below. Spoiler warning: these summaries contains spoilers.

For a non-spoiler version of the plot synopsis, see The Bibliofile's review of The Push by Ashley Audrain.

Quick(-ish) Recap

The one-paragraph summary of this book: Blythe and Fox have a daughter, Violet. Blythe thinks Violet is violent and lacks empathy, but Fox thinks Blythe's insufficient love for Violet is the problem. When their infant son Sam is killed, Blythe blames Violet. Their marriage falls apart. Fox has a son, Jet, with his new wife, Gemma. Throughout the book, it's not clear if Violet is innately bad, if Blythe is a bad mother (Blythe comes from a line of bad mothers) or if it's all in Blythe's head. The book ends by implying that Gemma suspects Violet has now harmed Jet.

Blythe and Fox Connor are a couple who meet in college and get married at 25. Soon, they have their first child, a girl named Violet. Blythe struggles with Violet from the beginning, Blythe is exhausted, and motherhood proves far tougher than she anticipated. She senses Violet prefers Fox, but Fox insists it's all in her head. Soon, she starts to resents Fox for seeing her solely as Violet's caregiver, and Fox thinks Blythe is deficient as a mother. As Violet gets older, Violet continues to be antagonistic and even violent towards Blythe. Violet has trouble getting along with other kids and there's incidences of violence towards them, too. When a boy falls off a playset and dies, Blythe suspects Violet tripped him on purpose.

Meanwhile, the narration is interspersed with information about the women in Blythe's family and her childhood. Her grandmother Etta's first husband died in a horrified farming accident. Etta suffered from moods and needed sedatives to calm her down. When Cecilia (Blythe's mother) is born, Etta marries her second husband Henry, but Etta struggles with motherhood and is often intentionally cruel to Cecilia. Etta eventually hangs herself. Cecilia grows up and meets a man named Seb. She later cheats on him and wants to leave him, but then they find out she is pregnant. Seb insists they have the baby (Blythe). Cecilia dislikes being a mother, and she leaves permanently when Blythe is 12. Blythe's kind neighbor Mrs. Ellington instead acts as a maternal figure to her.

When Blythe and Fox have their second child, a boy named Sam, Blythe's connection with him is immediate, and she adores him. However, one day as Blythe crosses the street, Sam's stroller rolls into the intersection and he is killed. Blythe is convinced she saw Violet push the stroller.

As Blythe grieves, Blythe and Fox's marriage disintegrates, ending with Fox's infidelity. After Fox leaves, Blythe secretly uses a fake name to befriend Fox's girlfriend, Gemma, to learn about their life. Blythe learns they had another son, Jet. Blythe and Gemma become close, but eventually Fox finds out Blythe has been pretending to be someone else to get close to Gemma. Blythe still tells Gemma her suspicions about Violet anyway.

After the divorce, Fox has custody, but Blythe has visitation rights. Blythe and Violet's relationship is still fraught. Violet lies to make Blythe look bad, and she runs away while Blythe is watching her. Blythe continues to look for acknowledgement from others that there is something wrong with Violet, until she finally starts to doubt herself. Finally, at one point Blythe grabs Violet arm hard enough to hurt her, and Fox cuts off visitation. Blythe ends up watching their house to catch glimpses of her.

The book ends a year and a half after that point. Blythe has started therapy to try to move on. Then, in the final lines, she learns from Gemma that something has happened to Jet (with the implication that it was Violet's fault.)

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Section-by-Section Summary

Prologue

A woman observes a house where a family of four lives. The parents and their kids, one boy and one girl, are dressed up. They take a family holiday photo. The girl leaves cookies and carrots for Santa and his reindeer.

Outside, snow is falling. As the girl looks out the window, she sees the woman parked on the street. The woman in the car thinks about her daughter (the girl) is beginning to look like her. With her, the woman has a stack of papers, a manuscript explaining her side of the story.

Chapter 1

Blythe and Fox Connor meet as students in college. Blythe falls hard for him, and they are inseparable. They talk about kids in their future. Blythe’s own mother, Cecilia, left when she was 11, and she has only seen her twice since then.

1939–1958

Blythe’s grandmother, Etta, was born the day WWII began. When she is 18, Etta plans to marry Louis, the son of the town doctor. Louis intends to go into medicine as well, but Etta’s father insists that Louis help with farming so that Louis can later take over the hundreds of acres the family owns. Etta is also said to have suffered from “nerves” and occasionally needed sedatives. Soon, Louis dies in a farming accident when Etta is pregnant. After Cecilia is born, Etta is remarried to Henry, a nice man who manages a candy factory.

Chapters 2 – 9

Blythe neglects to tell Fox the full truth about her distant relationship with her father. Fox, meanwhile, comes from a loving and stable family. After college, they move in together, and Fox is the breadwinner while Blythe pursues her fledgling writing career. He is supportive and thoughtful. At 25, he proposes, and they are married. Their wedding bands previously belonged to Fox’s great-grandmother, Violet.

The early years of their marriage are dreamy, hopeful and carefree. When Blythe is 27, Fox is eager to have kids. Blythe is hopeful that motherhood will come naturally to her, like it seems to for most women.

Blythe recalls how growing up, the Ellingtons, a black family, lived three doors down. Their son, Thomas Ellington Jr., was Blythe’s best friend. Thomas’s younger brother, Daniel, adored her. Mrs. Leda Ellington was kind and caring towards Blythe, but Cecilia disliked her. When Cecilia left for good, Mrs. Ellington stepped up to provide Blythe with some stability in her life.

Blythe becomes pregnant after they’ve been trying for a few months. Blythe is initially excited and starts taking prenatal classes. Fox’s parents send over boxes of his old baby things. As the date nears, Blythe becomes more unsure what what’s to come. When she finally goes into labor, Blythe tells Fox she doesn’t want the baby, but when Violet is born, she is filled with wonder by the baby.

1962

When Cecilia is five, Etta is trying to wash Cecilia’s hair and Cecilia is being difficult. Etta finally forces Cecilia under the water, causing her to choke. She then does it again. Cecilia is scared and shits herself. Instinctively, Cecilia hides the truth of what happened from her father.

Over the years, Cecilia continues to notice Etta’s “nerves” acting up, and Etta would occasionally lock Cecilia out of the house. Cecilia continues to hide these things from Henry, and Etta brightens up when Henry is around.

Chapters 10 – 14

Blythe struggles with Violet, who cries all the time and doesn’t latch well, and Blythe thinks the baby hates her. Fox chalks it up to the baby sensing her anxiety. Fox wants his parents to come help out, but Blythe says she’s in no condition to have Fox’s “perfect mother” there, since she’s still bleeding, she hasn’t showered and she’s too sore to wear a shirt.

Fox’s mother hires them a night nurse, and for that time things are better. After four weeks, Fox’s mother insists that it’s time Blythe learn how to do it herself. Blythe loves the night nurse. Afterwards, Blythe settles into a routine, but she still struggles to find other moms who are willing to admit that motherhood is difficult. All the women from her prenatal class merely talk about how rewarding motherhood is. When Blythe finally meets another new mom (with a baby named Harry) who admits to the difficulties of being a mom, she gives the other woman her phone number to keep in touch, but the other woman never reaches out.

The first time Violet smiles is with Fox, who continues to insist she just needs to relax with the baby. Blythe imagines what it would be like to leave all of it behind.

Blythe recalls her parents arguing when she was 8. Her father, Seb West, had found something in Cecilia’s pocket and was upset over someone named Lenny. Blythe remembers her father telling Cecilia that “You’ll end up just like Etta” before finally giving her a drink to calm her down.

1964

Even when Cecilia is seven, she still clings to her doll, Beth-Anne. One day Cecilia is looking for the doll, but Etta has placed it in the back of the cellar. She tells Cecilia where to find it, then shuts Cecilia in the tiny space and then Etta gets distracted. When Henry finally gets home, he staying home the next day to care for Cecilia and removes the door to the cellar completely.

Chapters 15 – 20

By the time Violet is six months old, Blythe still has hemorrhoids, and she talks to her doctor about she and Fox have not had sex in a long time. Blythe notices the other things that are now missing from her relationship now that Violet is getting Fox’s time and attention, like how they no longer do crosswords together. When Fox inquires about whether Blythe has napped when Violet napped, Blythe sees it as him monitoring her alertness and him treating her as a “service provider”.

At seven months, Violet starts napping for longer periods of time, and Blythe lies to Fox about napping. Instead, she has been working on a short story. Violet typically wakes up and cries after napping for two hours, but Blythe puts on headphones and lets her cry for some time so that she can get some more work done. One day Fox comes home early to the sound of Violet’s cries, and he is furious. (Much later, Blythe continues to feel guilt over her actions when she recalls what happened and remembers the shame over being found out.)

Blythe recalls how Cecilia was uncomfortable in small spaces. Their basement was kept permanently boarded up, and when Blythe keeps asking for it to be opened, Cecilia slaps her. Cecilia later explains that it’s because her mother once did something “very cruel” to her because there was “something wrong” with Etta.

After being caught by Fox, Blythe decides to stops writing and focus on Violet. She goes to see a doctor too, but the doctor encourages her to do something for herself like writing. Blythe knows Fox wouldn’t like that, so she settles on taking long walks with Violet. Things improve with Fox. One day, Blythe is having a silly moment with a delighted Violet, and Fox sees this. When he suggests that Blythe start writing again she knows she has passed whatever test he was putting her through. At 11 months, Violet says “Mama”, and Blythe and Fox are delighted. Later, they have sex for the first time in a long while, no stopping even when Violet starts crying.

1968

There were periods of time when Etta managed to act the way others expected her to be. When Cecilia is in the sixth grade, Etta decides to make Cecilia a dress for the school dance. For days she works on it and finally presents it to Cecilia. It’s beautiful, but the dress doesn’t fit and Cecilia can’t get it on. Etta insists that Cecilia wear the dress anyway. She keeps screaming at Cecilia until Henry comes in. Cecilia runs off and by that night Etta has awkwardly sewn panels into the side. Cecilia wears the dress at the next dance and then never again.

Chapters 21 – 26

When Violet turns 1, Blythe and Fox throw a party, and they take a family picture. Then, for some reason Violet stops sleeping through the night. For the next few months, Blythe is exhausted. Blythe wants to send Violet to day care, but Fox is against the idea because his own mother had never needed to do so. Meanwhile, Violet seems less happy and worse behaved than other toddlers. Blythe suspects something is wrong with Violet, but Fox clearly thinks Blythe is the problem. After a particularly grueling day of kicking and screaming, Fox agrees to three days of day care a week.

One day, Fox’s mother comes over and gives Violet a doll. Things are going well until Blythe needs to bathe Violet. Violet throws a tantrum and ends up biting Blythe on the cheek. Afterwards, Fox’s mother comforts Violet and comforts Blythe, telling her to “hang in there”. When Fox gets home, they both downplay the incident.

Blythe recalls her earliest memory from childhood (of herself in a stroller), and she wonders what her son Sam would remember. She imagines it would be the tiles from the changing room at the public pool.

When Violet is three, Blythe comes back to home after a weekend away and checks on Violet. Violet looks disappointed to see her and continues to sleep. When Fox goes in, Violet perks up and asks him to stay. When Blythe talks to Fox about her preferring him, he insists it’s all in her head.

Chapters 27 – 30

When Blythe was in the third grade, Cecilia showed up to a class event, a Mother’s Day tea party, to her surprise. Blythe gives her mother a card she made in class and feels proud as another girl comments how pretty her mother is. When they get home, Blythe tells Seb about it, and he asks to see the card. When her mother doesn’t know, he insists that Blythe find it, and Blythe senses that they’ve pushed Cecilia too far. Cecilia flips out.

When Violet is four, Blythe and Fox meet with her teacher, who says she is bright, but has exhibited hurtful, aggressive behaviors toward other kids. Blythe is concerned, noting that she has been cruel to other kids, while Fox brushes it off as a developmental phase where she is testing boundaries.

Blythe goes to a museum exhibit about children who have been perpetrators of gun violence. Later, Violet mentions that she’s going to hurt a boy she dislikes, Noah. Blythe tries to discourage her, but finds a clump of Noah’s hair in Violet’s pocket the next day. When she goes to tell Fox, he has a gift for her and she doesn’t say anything to avoid upsetting him. When confronted, Violet denies doing anything bad. The next morning, Blythe sees Noah who is clearly afraid of Violet.

When Violet is 5, there is a funeral for a boy named Elijah. Blythe had watched as Violet tripped Elijah on the playset, ad Elijah had consequently fallen off the top slide and died. Blythe tries to convince herself she mistook what she saw. When the police make their standard inquiries, she denies seeing anything.

Chapters 31 – 36

When Blythe is ten, she goes over to the Ellington’s one day after Mrs. Ellington has recently miscarried. Mrs. Ellington admits that she is sad and that it was a little girl.

Three months after the “accident”, the Connors move to a new house, and Blythe hopes a change will be good for them. Blythe wants another baby, another “chance at motherhood”. When Violet walks in on her parents having sex, she demands an explanation. The next day, she tells Fox that she hates her mother and only want to live with him.

Soon, Blythe is pregnant again, this time with a boy. She buys a replica painting of Mother and Child by Mary Cassatt to put in his nursery. Fox is less attentive this time around, but Blythe wants only her baby. When the baby is born, Blythe feels euphoric.

1969

When Cecilia gets her period, she wakes Etta from her nap to tell her, but Etta merely gives her two pills and goes back to sleep. Cecilia instead takes money from Etta’s purse and goes to the store to buy pads. Later, Cecilia tries to pick a fight with Cecilia to get a reaction, but Henry comes home and she leaves.

Chapters 36 – 42

With the new baby, the connection is immediate, what she’s been looking for. Violet didn’t care much for Sam, but Sam adores Violet. Blythe is surprised that Violet accepts the change surprisingly well, and things are better in the house for a while. Meanwhile, Blythe throws herself into activities for Sam. Fox is the only one who is unhappy, making comments about how Blythe makes more of an effort with Sam than she did wit Violet. One day Fox takes Violet to his office, and Violet mention a new assistant, Gemma.

One night Violet asks if Blythe loves Sam more than her, and Blythe wonders if she has overheard Fox’s comments. One day, when Blythe goes to feed Sam at 3AM in the morning, she finds Violet in there, who has taken Sam’s bunny, Benny. She wonders if Violet goes in to watch him sleep. Blythe is worried that the old, detached Violet was now back. The next day, Blythe tells Fox, who brushes it off.

When Blythe leaves the kids with a sitter to get a pedicure with a friend, she worries Violet will hurt Sam. As Blythe thinks about it, she’s sure something is wrong and rushes out part-way through. She gets home to find that everything is fine. The next day, the doctor attributes her action to normal parental anxiety. As the days pass, Blythe sees that Violet’s emptiness is back.

Back in her childhood, Blythe recalls Cecilia upset and being unable to get out of bed for a while. Seb tells Blythe that Cecilia has had a procedure, and Blythe finds blood in the bathroom. A man keeps calling for Cecilia, but Seb says she’s not home.

Chapters 43 – 49

The Connors go to the zoo. It’s a good day, but that night Violet says that she doesn’t “want Sammy anymore”. The next morning is peaceful, and Blythe heads to the park with the kids. As the arrive at an intersection, Violet takes both hands and yanks at Blythe’s elbow causing her to spill her coffee. Blythe lets go of the stroller, and Violet pushes it into the road. The stroller collides with a car and Sam is killed.

Afterwards, Blythe tells the police this, but Fox insists it was an accident. When Blythe insists it was Violet, Fox shushes Blythe, even when Blythe insists the stroller wouldn’t roll over the sidewalk groove even if let go. Afterwards, Blythe recalls how Violet had inquired about how streetlights work the weekend before.

Fox doesn’t want a funeral, so there isn’t one. As Blythe grieves, she stays in bed. Violet never goes to see her. Fox moves the Mother and Child painting into the bedroom. One day, Blythe attends a meeting for mothers whose children are in jail. Some mothers think it’s their own fault, while others do not. Afterwards, she talks to another parent who insists her child just make a mistake.

Blythe wants Fox to go away with her, just the two of them, but Fox doesn’t want to leave Violet. Instead, Fox suggests that Blythe leave for a while to a “wellness center”. She attends, but refuses therapy. There, Blythe meets a woman named Iris, who she likes immediately. They talked frequently. Two weeks before she is to leave, the grounds people find Blythe in the stream, talking about wanting to take Sam home.

It’s now been seven months since Sam’s death. Back at home, Fox leaves on a trip, leaving Blythe and Violet alone. As they are there, Violet tells Blythe that she wants Blythe to leave, so it will just be her and her father alone.

Chapters 50 – 58

Blythe recalls one night after her mother had left for good. Seb had been playing poker with some friends when he referred to another man as a cheater. The man had, in turn, responded that Seb’s wife was is the cheater, and he said Seb was weak, which is why she left him. Later, Seb tells Blythe that people will believe untrue things about you, but the only thing that matters is what you think about yourself. Still, Blythe thinks about the things Seb never did to stop Cecilia from going out at night or how he never took away the pills she was using. She wonders if he could have done more to stop her from leaving.

Blythe discards any writing from before Sam’s death and starts anew. It’s now been over a year since the death of Sam. Blythe suggests having Violet see a child psychologist, but Fox thinks the Violet is coping well so it is unnecessary. When Blythe suggests couples therapy, Fox suggests that Blythe should see someone by herself instead.

Blythe is tempted to talk to Fox’s mother about Violet, but can see that Sam’s death has been weighing on her, too. When the Connors go on a beach vacation, Violet buries another kid in the sand. Violet then brings over a bucket of water, and Blythe is unsure whether Violet plans to dump water on the kid to make him choke while he is immobilized. Blythe instinctively calls out the name Sam, and when Violet catches her father’s attention, she stops what she’s doing.

Shortly before Fox’s 39th’s birthday, Blythe suspects Fox is having an affair. He inquires about a type of flowers, and she catches him looking at a picture of himself, as if thinking about how attractive he might be to other people. On Fox’s birthday, Blythe purposely skips out on his breakfast plans. Soon, Fox says he’s resigning from his job. Blythe calls his mother, but she doesn’t know anything about it (Blythe asks her not to say anything to Fox about their call). Sensing something more is going on, Blythe checks his e-mail and learns that he was fired over some type of incident, and it seems it involved his assistant Gemma in some way.

1972

When Cecilia is 15, Etta seems to be “slipping away”. Meanwhile, Cecilia is disappearing as well. Henry’s sister suggests boarding school for Cecilia to get her away from Etta, but Henry disagrees. A few days later, at the age of 32, Etta hangs herself with Henry’s belt on a tree out front.

Chapters 59 – 62

After the revelation of the betrayal, Blythe finds herself surprisingly numb to the pain given that she is still grieving over Sam. Fox claims he’s not seeing the other woman anymore. When Blythe attributes their marriage falling apart to Sam’s death, Fox tells her that Sam is not the reason, implying that it had more to do with Violet (and presumably he thinks Blythe was deficient as a mother towards her). Fox also makes a comment about Blythe calling his mom about his job resignation, and Blythe knows that Fox’s mother told him about their call. After that, Blythe stops taking his mother’s calls. Later, Violet finds a book Blythe had been reading about how to move a marriage past an affair.

Three months after the discovery of the affair, Blythe packs up Fox’s things. He suggests joint custody over Violet, and Blythe agrees.

Near what would have been Sam’s birthday, Violet shows Blythe a viral video of a woman’s heroics preventing her son from harm multiple times. Violet says to Blythe pointedly that the mother saves her son “every time”. Meanwhile, Violet makes constant remarks reminding her mother that her father is with the other woman now.

Chapters 63 – 66

Blythe recalls how after Cecilia left their home, she reinvented herself and met a new man, Richard, who referred to her as “Annie” because her middle name was Anne. When Blythe finally saw Cecilia/Annie and Richard together, she wished her mother had died rather than become someone she no longer could recognize.

After Fox moves out, he is careful not to let Blythe meet Gemma even though Blythe is curious. Violet hints to Blythe that there’s a reason Fox has prevented this meeting from happening. Driven by curiosity, Blythe stalks their apartment to catch a glimpse of the unknown woman, and she ends up following her to a mom’s group meetup. Blythe enters, but quickly leaves. It occurs to Blythe that Fox left her for a woman that he thought would be a better mother, the “kind of woman you always wanted”.

Later, Blythe purchases a wig and attends another meeting for the mom’s group, going by the name “Anne”. The leader of the group, Sydney, welcomes her warmly. Blythe takes a seat and the other woman, Gemma, happens to sit beside her. As they chat, Gemma mentions that she has a son, Jet, who is going to be five months old soon. Blythe is shocked, knowing that the baby must’ve been born in June, considering how Fox only moved out in January of that year. Blythe realizes that the baby must have been conceived the same month that Fox was fired from his job.

Afterwards, Blythe goes into Sam’s things, smelling them and missing him.

Chapter 67

Two years after Blythe’s meeting with Cecilia and Richard, Seb tells Blythe that he’s going to drop her off for lunch with Cecilia, who Blythe has not seen in the interim. She is surprised, but curious. There, Blythe figures out that the invitation had come from Richard, not Cecilia. He had used Blythe’s presence to lure Cecilia home. It was clear Cecilia preferred to stay in the city and not here in this house half an hour away. When Blythe goes home, her father doesn’t ask any questions, but Blythe tells him that it wasn’t him who had made Cecilia unhappy (since it’s clear Cecilia is bored/unhappy with Richard as well). Blythe never sees her mother again.

Chapter 68 – 73

Blythe continues to pursue a friendship with Gemma to get information about the goings-on in her household, and in turn Gemma often would turn to Blythe for advice on things. Even though they are not married, Gemma refers to Fox as her husband. When they talk, Blythe pretends to still have a son named Sam and gets to pretend for a while that he is still alive. At one point Gemma suggests getting their kids together, but then doesn’t follows up on it.

One night, Gemma is worried that Jeb is sick. Fox is out of town, and Gemma wonders whether she should take him to the hospital and if so whether to wake Violet (who is 11 now) in the middle of the night or just leave her there alone. Despite knowing it is bad advice, Blythe strongly advises Gemma to go to the hospital immediately and leave Violet. Gemma does as she instructs, and predictably afterwards, Fox is mad at her for leaving Violet by herself. Blythe senses that Gemma is upset with her later.

Blythe’s deception gets increasingly complex when Gemma asks to see a photo of Sam. Blythe ends up looking for photos online to find ones of a four-year-old that can serve as a stand-in for Sam. Blythe even purchases items from secondhand stores to give to Gemma (pretending they are Sam’s old things), and Gemma gives her a kid’s gift they didn’t need in return.

Then, Blythe makes the critical mistake of saying she wants to meet her family. At the next mom’s meet-up, Gemma brings Fox. When she tells Blythe, Fox has already seen them together. It has been a year and a half since she’d spoken to Fox. Blythe and Fox both pretend not to recognize each other, but Gemma clearly senses something is off.

After the run-in, Blythe doesn’t hear from Gemma at first, and Blythe doesn’t attend anymore meetups. Blythe realizes that she misses the friendship. One day, she asks Violet about Gemma, but Violet just says “she’s fine”. Finally, Gemma asks to meet up. Blythe readily agrees. The next day, Blythe starts apologizing profusely (about acting like a psycho), but Gemma simply expresses her condolences about Blythe losing Sam. Then, Gemma asks about what happened with Sam, saying that Fox doesn’t like to talk about it. Blythe explains her version of the story. Then, she asks Gemma whether she’s ever wondered if her son was safe with Violet? Without another word, Gemma rushes off.

Meanwhile, Blythe is lonely at home. She starts casually sleeping with a man, a not particularly successful literary agent, but she suspects he’s also interested in having her write something that he could monetize.

1972 – 1974

With Etta’s death, Henry is too heartbroken to parent Cecilia properly. Cecilia is determined to make some money and leave town after graduation. She writes poetry, but takes a job as a caregiver for an elderly woman, Mrs. Smith. When Mrs. Smith dies, Cecilia takes the money, $680, that the old woman had stored in a tin. The next day, Henry drops her off at the train station.

Cecilia knows she is beautiful and heads to the city and meets Seb, who is a doorman at a fancy hotel. Soon, they are a couple, he introduces her to his friends and he supports her financially. Eventually, Cecilia discovers she also likes the wildness of fooling around with and feeling wanted by Seb’s friend Lenny. She and Lenny continue on and she considers leaving Seb for Lenny, but then Cecilia learns she is pregnant.

For financial reasons, Cecilia and Seb move out of the city and into his parents’ house in the suburbs. Cecilia tells Seb she wants an abortion, but Seb refuses to discuss it, offering only the alternative of her moving out and back home. Cecilia can’t imagine going back home to where Etta killed herself, so she has the baby.

Chapters 74 – 77

By now, Violet is around 13 years old. The divorce has happened, and Fox has custody of Violet. Violet’s teacher asks Blythe to help chaperone a school trip, and Blythe reluctantly agrees. On the trip, Blythe notices how Violet is an outcast. Moreover, Blythe didn’t realize till now that it bothered Violet. When Blythe stops paying attention, Violet goes missing. She finds Violet’s bracelet on the ground. She searches all around but it finally turns out that a truck driver had picked her up at the side of the road — Violet had tried to run away. The trip changes the way Blythe sees Violet, as a sad, powerless girl.

Blythe continues seeing the literary agent casually, though unenthusiastically. One random day, Violet asks Blythe to stay with her one weekend. They watch a movie and laugh together, and Blythe feels sad about how rare these moments were with Violet. At night, when Blythe falls asleep on the couch, she hears Violet digging around her dresser, but it’s not clear why. After that weekend, Blythe gets the idea to drive over to Fox’s house to watch them at night.

Blythe recalls how she stopped relying on her father as much when Fox came into the picture, and she feels ashamed because she knew that she was all he really had. Before graduation, she stops off at home and asks him about her mother. The next day, Seb dies of what the police think was a heart attack. Blythe thinks to herself about how she and Cecilia broke his heart (by leaving him behind). When Mrs. Ellington later tell her that “you made him very happy” to comfort her, Blythe thinks about how it is a kind lie.

Chapters 78 – 82

After the weekend with Violet, Blythe gets a call from Gemma, who is upset. Gemma says that Jet ended up with a blade that must’ve come from her house. Blythe realizes that Violet must’ve gotten the blade (one of Fox’s model-building tools) that was hidden in her dresser. Moreover, Violet claimed that Blythe just left these things lying open in the house. Blythe denies it, but Gemma clearly doesn’t believe her.

A month later, Violet returns to Blythe’s place, but things are cold between them again. When Violet asks about the poison sign on the bottle of bleach (and whether it could kill someone), Blythe calls Gemma to let her know. But Gemma tells Blythe that Violet didn’t push Sam. As time passes, Blythe starts to doubt what she really saw that day and whether Violet really did push Sam. She finally goes back to the intersection where it happened and sees Joe, who owns the coffee shop at that corner. She asks Joe if he saw the accident, and he merely says that he was glad she had Violet to live for (indicating that if he did see it, then he thought it was Blythe’s fault).

Blythe starts thinking that perhaps it’s time for her to let it go. She wakes up wanting the Mother and Child painting back (which she thought Fox had taken with him), but Fox says he doesn’t know where it is.

The next time Blythe has Violet she takes her to see Mrs. Ellington, who now has some memory problems, but is loving as ever towards Blythe. Afterwards, she tells Violet that she’s the closest thing she had to a mother. Violet asks why she doesn’t seek out her real mother, and Blythe responds that she is afraid of what has become of her. Blythe thinks about how Violet is growing up and will leave her behind.

1975

Cecilia knows she is not meant for motherhood, but during her pregnancy wonders if her feelings are changing. After Blythe is born, she thinks of how she looks like her doll from childhood. Blythe is a good baby who rarely cries, and each day Seb comments on how lucky they are.

Chapters 83 – 84

Blythe recalls one day while her mother was brushing her hair, Blythe asked Cecilia if she wishes she weren’t a mother. Cecilia responds that she wished she were different in some ways. She also tells Blythe not to learn to be like her, and sees to regret that “I don’t know how to teach you to be anyone different”. The next day, Cecilia leaves for good.

The day after the meeting with Mrs. Ellington, Blythe overhears Violet on the phone with Gemma. She tells Violet that she’s happy that Violet has someone to talk to that she trusts, even if it isn’t her. She is surprised when Violet is upset, saying that Blythe is all too willing to give her up and that Blythe hates her. When Violet tries to run off, Blythe grabs her, but it hurts Violet’s arm and Violet looks satisfied. Soon, Fox tells Blythe they need to rethink their visitation schedule.

That night, Blythe finds the painting of Mother and Child on Blythe’s doorstep with a note. The note is from Gemma and it says that Fox had the painting up in Violet’s room, but Gemma thinks Blythe should have it since it clearly means so much to her. Blythe sees that it’s actually Fox who dropped it off and thanks him for it, but he also says that Blythe needs to move on with her life and not call Gemma anymore.

Before he leaves, Fox also admits to something from a long time ago. At one point, Blythe’s expensive clothes had gone missing after they tried out a new cleaning company. He tells Blythe that he’d actually caught Violet cutting them up. Then he tells Blythe that even so, Violet deserved more from Blythe, but that Blythe had deserved more from him as well.

Chapter 85

In present day, in her car outside their house, Violet comes up to her car and seems to mouth something, but Blythe can’t make out what it is. She thinks Violet is saying “I pushed him” but she can’t hear through the glass. Then, Violet turns around and walks home.

A year and a half later

A year and a half later, Blythe is in therapy now, working hard to try to let things go. After dinner, she turns on the porch light in case her daughter “decides it’s time to see her”. (It sounds like she’s hoping Violet will come and be curious about her the way she was curious about their family.)

When the phone rings, Blythe is hopeful that it is Violet on the line. Instead, it is Gemma. She is hysterical. The book ends with the line: “‘Blythe,’ she finally whispers. ‘Something happened to Jet.'”

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