In Manhattan, Lowen Ashleigh sees a man get hit by a truck, and the blood splashes on her. A man, Jeremy Crawford, helps her into the nearby coffee shop to get cleaned up. He offers her his shirt since hers is bloodied.
Jeremy tells her that his 8-year-old drowned in a lake five months ago. In response, Lowen tells Jeremy that her mother died from cancer last week. Lowen notices the wedding ring on his finger.
Soon, Jeremy leaves, and Lowen heads up to meet with Corey — her literary agent who is also her ex — and an editor at Pantem Press.
As Lowen heads up to the Pantem Press offices, she runs into Jeremy again. It turn out that the person Lowen is supposed to meet with is Jeremy, and Jeremy’s wife is a writer as well.
When Corey shows up, she tells him that her mother passed away last week. As she does, she thinks about how she’s spent the last few months barely able to leave the apartment because her mother relied on her for everything. The last few weeks she didn’t leave at all.
Corey offers to connect Lowen with Edward, the lawyer at his literary agency, in case she needs help with the will, but Lowen know she won’t need it. They spent the last of her mother’s money helping her mother to live her last few months more comfortably. As a result, Lowen is stressed about her current financial situation. She was hoping to be offered a contract renewal today, but Corey says the publisher has something else in mind.
Soon, Jeremy enters the room along with Barron Stephens (a Pantem lawyer), and Amanda Thomas (the editor). Amanda explains that one of their authors is unable to fulfill their contract (for medical reasons), and they’re looking for a writer to complete the three remaining books in her book series. Lowen would also have to do any associated publicity.
The author in question is Verity Crawford, a very well-known writer. Lowen pieces together that Verity must be Jeremy’s wife. They’re offering $75,000 per book (no royalties), to be completed in 24-months’ time. Lowen does some quick math — and after Corey’s cut (15% industry standard) and taxes, it would leave her with a little less than $100K total, which means she’d get $50,000 post-tax per year — which is okay, but not great. Lowen initially declines.
However, Jeremy ask to talk to Lowen alone. Lowen ask about his wife, and Jeremy says she was in a car accident. He also mentions that they previously lost both their kids, twins named Chastin and Harper, within six months of each other. He also says that Lowen’s book Open Ended was one of Verity’s favorites. He presses Lowen to take the job, offering half a million for the three books, and he tells her she can decline doing the publicity. Lowen agrees to do it.
Corey goes with Lowen back to her apartment to celebrate the new contract. Lowen thinks about how she stopped sleeping with him after she learned over social media that he was seeing someone else. At the apartment, she finds yet another eviction notice.
On Sunday, she’ll be headed to the Crawford house in Vermont to go through Verity’s notes in order to help her write the novel. Corey thinks it’s odd that Jeremy invited Lowen to stay in their home, especially considering the misfortune their family has suffered.
Online, Lowen has learned that one daughter died of an allergic reaction when she was away for a sleepover, and the other drowned in the lake behind their home. Verity’s car wreck involved her hitting a tree. Corey says he’s concerned about Lowen being in that situation, but Lowen suspects he’s just jealous that she’s staying in another man’s home.
It’s a six-hour drive to Vermont. On the way, Lowen listens to the first Verity Crawford novel on audiobook. It’s really good, and Lowen feels intimidated by the task ahead in trying to complete this series.
When Lowen arrives at the Crawford house, she sees their 5-year-old son, Crew Crawford. Then, Jeremy comes to greet her and to help her get settled in. Lowen is put in the master bedroom, which wasn’t in use, because it’s closest to Verity’s office.
Jeremy introduces Lowen to Verity’s nurse April as Laura Chase, using the pen name that Lowen will be writing this under. When Lowen finally sees Verity, she’s shocked to see that Verity seems to have little recognition of what’s going on around her.
In the office, Lowen sees stacks of books and papers everywhere. On one shelf are the completed novels in Verity’s book series entitled The Noble Virtues, which each book titled after a different virtue. The remaining three books left to be completed are Courage, Truth and Honor.
Once Jeremy leaves the room, Lowen settles in and starts looking through the stuff in the office. In one box, she sees aa manuscript entitled So Be It, which Lowen soon realizes is an autobiographical work that Verity must’ve worked on at some point. She starts to read.
(So Be It: Chapter 1)
In the intro, Verity explains that true autobiographies should be ugly and honest and leave the writer exposed. She then says that that’s what she aims to do here.
She starts by writing about meeting Jeremy. She met him at a fancy charity event when she was 22. Jeremy, 27 at the time, had been very forward about coming on to her. She’d left the event with him. They get into a limo, but Jeremy soon admits that it isn’t his ride.
Instead, Jeremy drives a Honda Civic and didn’t even pay for valet parking. Meanwhile, Verity says she works as an office cleaner, and she stole the invitation for the event out of a trash can. When the driver of the limo returns, Jeremy and Verity rush out. They drive away in his Honda and have sex. They don’t leave his apartment for the next three days, and they falls for each other quickly.
Verity ends the chapter by saying that she was the most important thing to him until he “discovered the one thing that meant more to him than I did.”
Lowen takes a break to grab some pizza with Jeremy. She asks him about Verity, who he says was injured not long after Harper died. After being in a medically induced coma and in rehab, she finally came home a few weeks ago. Afterwards, Lowen hurries back to the office, eager to read the next chapter in Verity’s book.
(So Be It: Chapter 2)
By the time they’ve been together two years, Verity and Jeremy are living together. When Jeremy gets temporarily transferred to Los Angeles for work, Verity feels untethered, and she starts writing to pass the time. A few month later, she’s completed her first book around the time that Jeremy returns home.
Jeremy reads the book and he tells her it’s good. Then, he proposes, slipping a ring on her finger after they have sex. It turns out that Verity ends up getting pregnant that day as well.
Verity’s office has full length glass windows, and as she reads, Lowen can see that April has moved Verity onto the back porch.
Verity soon gets a call from the apartment building she’d applied to live at, Creekwood, saying that her application was denied because she has a recent eviction. When she gets off the phone, she sees Jeremy standing there, and he has clearly overheard the conversation. He offers to let her stay here until she gets her advance.
Later, as Jeremy and Crew are outside, Lowen sees Crew wave at his mother’s window. Lowen then glances at Verity’s window and thinks she sees the curtain move, but that shocks her since it seems like that should be impossible in Verity’s state.
Lowen then goes into Verity’s room to check things out, and sees that the fan is on, causing the curtain to move. Lowen tells herself to chill out.
(So Be It: Chapter 3)
After Verity learns she’s pregnant, Jeremy is ecstatic. They soon learn, too, that they’re twins. However, Verity dreads what the process is doing to her body. She also doesn’t like being “the third most important thing in Jeremy’s life”. She tries to take sleeping pills and drink wine to provoke a miscarriage.
One day Verity asks Jeremy if he loves them more than her, and she’s unhappy when he says yes. He says that their love is conditional, but his love for the twins isn’t. Right afterwards, she uses a wire hanger until she bleeds in hopes of miscarrying.
Verity is horrified about what she’s read, and she starts to wonder what really happened to those two girls. Distraught, Lowen goes into the kitchen for something to drink. Jeremy sees her and senses that something is wrong, but Lowen pretends it’s nothing.
Photos of the two girls show that Harper rarely smiles, while Chastin has a scar on her cheek and a huge smile on. Jeremy says she was born with the scar, and Verity wonders if it was a result of Verity’s abortion attempt. He also says that only Chastin had the peanut allergy (which killed her).
When Jeremy takes Lowen’s hand to ask about the scar on her palm, she pulls back. She feels an attraction to him, but doesn’t want to indulge it. Afterwards, she thinks about how she got the scar because of her sleepwalking. It happened many years ago, and she was sure she’d locked the door to prevent herself from leaving, but one morning she’d woken up bleeding and with a broken wrist.
A second nurse soon shows up named Myrna, who works on Fridays and Saturdays, and who Lowen likes more than April.
Lowen decides to stop, or at least pause, reading Verity’s manuscript for the time being, since it’s distracting her from the task at hand. Instead, she focuses on studying Verity’s notes to prepare for writing her three novels. She thinks about how Verity writes her books from the point of view of the
antagonists. Meanwhile, a press release goes out announcing her (as Laura Chase) as the new “co-author” of Verity’s book series.
Later, Lowen and Jeremy make a grocery store run. While they’re there, they run into Patricia and Caroline, who are Verity’s friends. They are displeased to see Lowen accompanying Jeremy and are rude. When Lowen and Jeremy walk off, Jeremy purposely tells Patricia to “give my best to Sherman” (knowing full well that her husband’s name is William and Sherman is merely the guy that she’s cheating on her husband with).
Lowen is lost in thoughts when she hears Crew scream. She rushes upstairs to see him in Verity’s bedroom bleeding with a cut on his chin and a knife on the floor.
Lowen hurriedly takes him into the bathroom to clean him up and asks him what happened. He responds by saying that “Mommy said I’m not supposed to touch her knife”. It confuses Lowen since Verity doesn’t seem to be able to talk to anyone in her state, but she tells herself Verity must’ve said it prior to her accident. However, when Lowen goes back to Verity’s room to find the knife, it’s gone.
(So Be It: Chapter 4)
The twins are born healthy, though one has a scratch on her cheek. Verity makes an effort to act like she loves them the way Jeremy does, but she doesn’t feel it. When the nurse asks if she’ll be breast-feeding, Verity initially says no, but then agrees to try it after Jeremy and the nurse both seem to disapprove.
However, after a few seconds, Verity insists she can’t do it, and the nurse brings the formula over instead. As Jeremy continues to marvel over how much he loves the twins, Verity looks on bitterly.
As Verity looks through a box of the Crawfords’ family pictures, she asks Jeremy why Harper never smiled in photos. Jeremy responds that she was diagnosed with Asperger’s when she was three. Verity then asks Jeremy how he’s been dealing with his losses. He says that his world “ended” after the twins both died. Then, when Verity had her accident, he felt anger towards Verity.
When Crew walks in and see the box of photos, he gets angry, saying that he doesn’t want to see the pictures.
The next time Lowen sees April, she tries to strike up a conversation and ask how it’s been working with Verity. April, however, pulls Lowen aside and gently reminds her not to talk as if Verity’s not there. They don’t know how much Verity can process of what they’re saying, even if she’s unable to respond.
Later, Crew finds a turtle, though they release it back into the grass. Then the three of them — Crew, Jeremy and Lowen — go to a restaurant to eat. When they get back, Lowen and Jeremy share a moment, but neither of them act on it. Lowen then goes into Verity’s office to read the next chapter of the manuscript.
(So Be It: Chapter 5)
With the twins at home, Verity is exhausted, and they’re unable to afford a nanny since she’d only received a small advance for her book so far. Once Jeremy returns to work, however, Verity can simply let them cry during the day while she sleeps. Then, she tends to the girls right before Jeremy is set to come home.
Verity is eager to have sex before the doctor has approved it, but Jeremy thinks they should wait. Instead, Verity seduces Jeremy and when he gives in enthusiastically, Verity thinks that perhaps they’ll be okay.
After reading more, Lowen starts to wonder if Verity is a psychopath or sociopath. Later, Jeremy asks for help in bringing up an aquarium from the basement so that Crew can keep his pet turtle. As they’re down there, Jeremy says he used to work down there when he owned a realty firm before Verity made it big. When she got pregnant with Crew, he stopped working.
That night, Lowen puts on one of Jeremy’s shirts from the closet and imagines being with him in bed.
Lowen wakes up and realizes that she has sleepwalked into Verity’s bed. Stifling a scream, she tries to sneak back into her room, but she runs into Jeremy. Lowen is alarmed at her own behavior, but Jeremy laughs it off and comforts her.
Lowen then tells him the the truth about what happened to her hand. She got the scar when she was ten. She had climbed onto the railing on the front porch and stood there for an hour. Then, she jumped, hurting her wrist and hand. She then walked back to her room and went to sleep, not realizing any of it until she awoke the next morning. After that, she started going to therapy.
Jeremy then stays with her until she’s asleep again.
The next morning, Jeremy asks Lowen if she would feel safer with a lock on the outside of her door. That way, he could lock it (or unlock it if she texted or called him) and she would know she couldn’t get out. Lowen feels unsure about it, but then agrees that it would be a good idea.
(So Be It: Chapter 6)
When the girls are six months old, Verity has as nightmare. She dreams that the twins are 8 or 9 and that she watches Harper smother Chastin with a pillow. When Verity awakes, she’s surprised at the genuine heartache she felt at the idea of Chastin being dead.
Later, when she hears crying, Verity is eager to soothe the girls, but is disappointed when it’s Harper instead of Chastin. She starts to wonder if her dream is a warning that Harper would do something to Chastin. She thinks about how she might kill Harper, and she chokes the baby until Jeremy interrupts and Harper vomits.
After reading all this, Lowen feels sick. Lowen skims the next few chapters, and notices that Verity mostly writes about Chastin and stops mentioning Harper. Finally, Lowen stops reading when Jeremy invites her to have some margaritas and tacos.
Over dinner, Jeremy tells Lowen that they bought the house when the girls were three, and that he plans on going back to work at some point. He also tells Lowen about him growing up on an alpaca farm in New York State as a kid.
They then talk about Verity’s parents, Victor and Marjorie. He says that Verity cut them out of their lives because they’re insanely religious, and “acted liked she was suddenly denouncing her religion to join a satanic cult” just because she was writing thriller novels.
When Jeremy asks if Lowen thinks he should put Crew back in therapy, Lowen says yes and that going into therapy was the best thing that ever happened to her. She thinks about how her mother had been “disconnected” with her after the wrist incident, and how she actually reminds her a lot of Verity, but Lowen doesn’t say that.
Before he locks her in for the night, Jeremy tells Lowen that he lied about Verity reading Lowen’s book. Instead, he was the one who read her book and loved it, which is why he suggested her name to the publisher.
(So Be It: Chapter 9)
After Verity’s books are doing well and they’ve moved into a new house, Verity enrolls the girls in daycare. Back in New York, they had a nanny, but out here nannies are hard to find. However, Jeremy gets very upset. Verity assumes he is worried about the daycare being careless about Chastin’s peanut allergy.
However, when she finally confronts him about it, he says that he’s upset that she talks about Chastin constantly and never seems to care about Harper’s well-being. Verity talks him down, saying that it’s just because they are two very different children with different sets of needs. She also mentions that one of the daycare teachers thinks Harper may have Asperger’s.
To try to get rid of his bad mood, Verity then lies and tells Jeremy that she’s pregnant again. He’s delighted, and she thinks about how he loves her the most when she’s pregnant. As they make love that night, Verity tells herself that a miscarriage will be easy to fake.
The next few chapters of the manuscript mostly involve descriptions of Verity’s sex life with Jeremy, with a brief interlude about Crew.
By now, Lowen has been here almost two weeks, and she’s done pretty much all that she can in Verity’s office. She takes a break to watch some television. Jeremy joins her, and Lowen mentions that her 32nd birthday is the next day.
Jeremy ends up baking a cake for her. That night after Crew in in bed, Lowen and Jeremy finally get intimate — until Lowen stops things when she thinks she sees Verity standing at the top of the stairs. However, Jeremy insists that it’s impossible that Lowen saw her since Verity can’t walk. When Lowen goes into Verity’s room, she sees that Verity is asleep in her bed.
By the time Lowen awakes, she’s less sure of what she thought she saw the night before. Lowen starts to think that she needs to show Jeremy the manuscript that Verity wrote so he can understand what type of person Verity really is.
(So Be It: Chapter 13)
Verity becomes pregnant with Crew within two weeks of lying about being pregnant. By now, they have a full-time nanny, and Jeremy is staying home full time as well.
As time passes, Verity gets busy with book tours and whatnot, but she’s happy that when she returns Jeremy always greets her with the same enthusiasm as he did early on in their relationship. She’d occasionally leave for a week purposely to prompt him enthusiastically welcoming her home afterwards.
Verity is at home washing a raw chicken the day that they get the call about Chastin. Chastin had been at a sleepover at her friend Maria’s house and had been found unresponsive the next morning by Maria’s mother, Kitty. Verity and Jeremy rush to the hospital, only to learn that she’s already dead.
They eventually learn that Chastin, Harper and Maria had decided to grab a late-night snack and no one had thought anything was wrong, but Chastin hadn’t woken up the next morning. Verity suspects Harper did something to Chastin (based on her dream when they were six months old), and she wishes she would have killed Harper before then.
Lowen continues to wonder if Verity is somehow faking her injuries. She thinks that perhaps Verity has simply trained herself not to react to things. She’s sure that the television has been muted when Verity was alone in her room.
Lowen tries to get a reaction out of Verity by saying cruel things to her. When Lowen says that she’s planning on having sex with Jeremy, Verity urinates, which prompts Jeremy to have to go bathe and change her.
Later, Lowen encourages Jeremy to put Verity in a care facility so he doesn’t have to live like this, but Jeremy doesn’t want take Crew away from his mother. That night, Lowen and Jeremy finally have passionate sex.
The next morning, Jeremy admits that he feels something for Lowen. When they try to exit the room, however, it turns out that the door is locked from the outside. Lowen suggests that it’s possible Verity did it and took Crew. Jeremy kicks down the window. When they get out, it turns out that both Crew and Verity are asleep in their beds.
(So Be It: Chapter 14)
Six months after Chastin’s death, Verity confronts Harper about why she doesn’t seem to be upset about it. Harper insists that she does care, but Verity doesn’t believe her.
Later, Jeremy suggests that Verity take the kids to go play by the lake while he shops for groceries. They get into the boat with Verity at the back, Crew in the middle and Harper at the front.
Then, Verity tells Crew to hold his breath, and then she purposely capsizes the boat and only saves Crew. As Crew frantically screams for Verity to save Harper, Verity orders Crew to run into the house to call Jeremy. Verity then very slowly swims back out so she can pretend to be saving Harper when the police and Jeremy arrive. Harper is found dead, and Jeremy doesn’t even look at Verity afterwards.
Jeremy figures out that if you close the door hard enough, it’s possible for the outside lock on Lowen’s room to accidently lock into place, which is what he thinks happened. He also says that he’s contacted a nursing facility and arranged for Verity to be taken there more of the time and brought home three weekends a month.
Before, Lowen had been debating whether to show him the manuscript, but in that moment, she decides not to in order to protect him. Lowen then agrees to stay for another week, and she and Jeremy proceed to have unprotected sex.
Lowen has a dream about Crew being a teenager, and in the dream she can sense that he’s evil. She then wonders if she should show Jeremy the manuscript for Crew’s sake, since she wonders how he may have internalized the things his mother did like telling him to hold his breath just before the boat overturned.
Lowen tries to have a conversation with Crew about Verity to find out what he thinks happened that day in the canoe. However, Crew says that “Mommy said I shouldn’t talk to you if you ask me questions about her.” This prompts Lowen to ask him if his mother ever “pretends she can’t talk” which causes him to bite down on a butter knife in his mouth. Lowen calls for Jeremy when it draws blood.
When Jeremy rushes to take Crew in for stitches, Lowen sets up a video monitor in Verity’s room to try to track if she moves at all.
(So Be It: Chapter 15)
After Harper’s death, Verity is interrogated by the police. However, Jeremy’s questioning is even worse. He finally asks her why she told Crew to hold his breath. Verity tries to tell him that she said it as they were tipping and not before, but she knows it’s over by then. She contemplates driving into a tree. (The end.)
Lowen finishes reading Verity’s manuscript just as Jeremy returns from the hospital. When Jeremy goes to take a shower, Lowen sees Verity getting out of bed. Lowen screams for Jeremy to come see, but Verity hears and scrambles back into bed.
Lowen insists that Verity is faking it, but Jeremy tells her it’s impossible. Finally, Lowen shows him the manuscript and begs him to at least read the last two chapters.
It takes some time for Jeremy to read. Then, he marches into Verity’s room and demands that he tell her the truth. At first she continues to pretend, but Jeremy says that he’s going straight to the police unless she drops the act. Finally, Verity gets up.
Jeremy is furious, attacks her and begins to strangle her, crushing her windpipe. However, Lowen talks him down, reminding him that Crew will not have a father is he becomes a murderer. Lowen finally tells him that he needs to make it look like an accident. She says to make her vomit so it will seem like she choked on her own vomit and aspirated.
Finally, Verity is dead. They decide to go to bed and “find” her dead in the morning. They agree to never speak of it again.
Chapter 24 (Seven Months Later)
Seven months later, Lowen’s outlines for the book have been approved and her first draft of the first novel is completed. She’s also pregnant with Jeremy’s child, which is due in two and a half months. Lowen is relieved to see how happy Jeremy is about the impending baby.
Jeremy has now put the house up for sale, and the three of them now live in a new house on the beach in Southport, North Carolina. They go to clean out the last of the stuff in the old house, and Crew mentions how his mother used to keep stuff beneath the floor.
Lowen goes into what was once Verity’s room and finds a loose piece of flooring. There, she finds the knife that had once gone missing as well as an envelope with a handwritten letter for Jeremy.
In the letter, Verity states her intention to run away with Crew. She also recalls a conversation her editor Amanda. Amanda had suggested that Verity try out “antagonistic journaling” in order to help her get into the mindset of an evil character. So, the point would be to write about her own experiences as if she were an evil character. Verity says that the more she did it, the better she got.
(In case it’s not clear, the point is that the manuscript by Verity that Lowen read was a writing exercise and not a true reflection of Verity’s thoughts and actions.)
Verity further talks about how Jeremy ended up finding the journal entry about Harper, but the truth was that Harper’s death was an accident. She’d told Crew to hold his breath as the canoe was tipping and focused on saving him because Harper was more comfortable in the water than Crew.
Verity had then written about it soon after in her “antagonistic journaling” mindset partially as a way of verbalizing her own guilt over not being able to protect Harper. However, she wasn’t expecting Jeremy to somehow come across it.
Right after, Jeremy had grabbed her and choked her until she was unconscious, without giving her a chance to explain. When she awoke, she was bound and gagged and in her car. Then he made it look like she had driven her self into a tree.
Afterwards, Verity had pretended to be in a coma and continued to pretend until she could figure out how to fix the situation. She decides to write him this letter and to try to run away with Crew.
After reading the letter, Lowen feels sick, knowing that Verity was innocent. Beyond that, Lowen thinks about how Jeremy had already known about the manuscript even before Lowen showed it to him.
Worried that Jeremy might find out the truth, Lowen destroys Verity’s letter. However, even afterwards, Lowen wonders if perhaps Verity was just being manipulative with her letter. Ultimately she doesn’t know if Verity’s letter was the truth or if her manuscript was the truth.