If you are searching for a romantic thriller novel that ends in a plot twist to leave you reeling for days and questioning what the truth is, look no further. “Verity,” by Colleen Hoover, recently became the #1 fiction book on The New York Times Best Sellers list and checks all boxes. Originally self-published in 2018, “Verity” is now being re-released in hardcover with a bonus chapter that many fans are hoping will give them some closure on the previous ending. I’m going to warn you, there will be spoilers ahead. If you have not read Verity or the new bonus chapter, read this column at your own risk.
The biggest debate at the end of the book is whether the contents of the manuscript, or the letter that Lowen, the protagonist, finds are true. Either outcome would have changed the story completely. There is a degree of manipulation used, which blurs fact and fiction, making it hard to find the truth. However, the release of this newest chapter makes it more clear than ever that the letter must be true.
“Verity” is about a struggling writer named Lowen Ashleigh, who is offered the opportunity of a lifetime — the chance to complete a series by bestselling author Verity Crawford, who is injured from a car accident and in a vegetative state. Lowen moves into the Crawford home to sort through all of Verity’s notes and drafts. Verity lives there with her husband Jeremy and Crew, their son. While searching through Verity’s office for her notes, she comes across a manuscript for Verity’s autobiography. This manuscript is very disturbing, as Verity admits to killing one of her two dead twin daughters. Lowen eventually discovers that Verity is faking her injury and decides that Jeremy deserves to know the truth. Once she shows him the manuscript, Jeremy confronts Verity and proceeds to attack her, ending in her murder. Months later, Lowen finds a letter left by Verity right before they killed her. This letter explains that the entire manuscript was just a writing exercise called “antagonistic journaling.” We are left to wonder about which is the truth and which was manipulated.
After reevaluating everything originally believed to be the truth in this book, the letter ends up ringing true. Verity’s explanation for writing the manuscript in the first place makes sense — that it was a writing exercise used to help with her writing from the villain’s perspective in her books. She took real events from her own life, tweaking and manipulating the story enough for it to become a fantasy. When her kids died she continued it as a coping mechanism for her grief, believing it easier to blame this villain she had created than to face the reality. Some might argue that it is strange that Verity did not place a warning on the top of the manuscript that said it was fiction. However, she may have truly believed that no one would ever read it, since it was only practice for herself. Additionally, if she had actually killed her child, writing it down in a confession and printing it out wouldn’t have fit the pattern. It would not have fit in with Verity’s past actions, especially since it would be risking her relationship with Jeremy, who was her obsession in the manuscript.
Within the manuscript, there is a detailed scene of Verity murdering one of her twin daughters. She brought Harper — one of the twin daughters — and Crew onto the lake behind their house and proceeded to tip the boat purposefully. She saved Crew, telling him to hold his breath, and left Harper to drown, tangled in a fishing net below. Verity reveals an alternative narrative in her letter. Verity explains that Harper asked to go and they went without life jackets as usual. As the boat accidentally tipped, Verity told Crew, who didn’t know how to swim, to hold his breath. Her focus was on him since Harper knew how to swim. There was also no way for her to have known there was a fishing net below that would drown Harper. This clears away any uncertainties about what really happened as every detail in that manuscript had a plausible explanation. Writing the manuscript, all Verity needed to do was change small details, mainly her own character’s thoughts and motivations, in order to make the fabrication so believable.
The biggest reveal in the letter was that, prior to the events of the book, Jeremy had found Verity’s manuscript and tried to kill her, framing it as an accident. There was no hint of Jeremy’s flaws in the manuscript, likely because Verity’s biases bled into it. She wrote about him positively and maybe even exaggeratedly, making Jeremy appear perfect for the sake of the story. However, looking back on the events of the book, Jeremy’s character and motivations are brought into question. When Lowen showed Jeremy the manuscript and he left to read, he was gone for only a short period of time. Lowen even said that he had not been gone long enough to have read the entire manuscript. Immediately afterward, Jeremy confronted Verity, and instead of calling the police, he jumped straight to murder. It would make sense that he was trying to cover up his original attempt at murder rather than call the police and risk Verity telling them the truth. The bonus chapter confirmed this theory when Jeremy showed his true colors, killing a woman to keep the secret of Verity’s murder. This made it obvious that he was willing to, and more than capable of, murder.
Some may wonder why Verity would fake her condition after the car accident if she was really innocent. Since it has been revealed that Jeremy tried to kill her, it makes sense that Verity was terrified of him. In the letter, Verity says that in the hospital, he caught her with her eyes open and a look of rage crossed his face, like he was willing to try to kill her again. Faking unresponsiveness was the only thing she could do at that moment. She continued to pretend in order to have time to destroy the printed manuscript, which Jeremy could have used as evidence against her. There was also the issue of needing money to run and wanting to take Crew with her. She had to wait for the right moment, faking her condition for the sake of self-preservation and escaping with Crew.
The biggest takeaway from this book is that everything is not always as it seems. Manipulation is a very powerful tool and can cause people to completely believe lies, unaware of when they have crossed that line between fact and fiction. Even the readers were left in the dark and given no clear sign of whether or not Verity was a manipulator. By taking a closer look at all of the characters’ actions, it is revealed that the letter must be true since their choices support its explanation.
Lily Tener is a sophomore majoring in integrative neuroscience.