Estimated reading time: 8 minutes
Colleen Hoover has evidently more than enough talent to take forays outside her comfort zone in terms of genre, and her 2018 novel Verity stands as a testament to that. It tells us the story of Lowen Ashleigh, a struggling author who takes on a job to finish three books for another famous writer, now incapacitated following an accident. However, during the course of her work Lowen runs into an autobiography never meant to be read, opening a real Pandora’s Box of terrifying family secrets.
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Colleen Hoover Drops a Mist of Frightening Ambiguity
Nobody knows what they are truly capable of until they are thrust into a situation allowing all of their dormant aspects to express themselves. I think most of us assume that we are good people and incapable of crossing certain barriers, but as Lowen Ashleigh finds out in Verity by Colleen Hoover, life has such insidious and far-reaching vertices that one might fail to realize they’ve become absorbed in the first place.
The novel begins by introducing us to Lowen, an author with a bit of a bad streak going. Not only did her mother pass away a week ago, but her publisher wants her to start promoting her next book (an idea she cannot stand), due to how badly her previous ones have been doing. On her way to the literary agent’s office, she sees a man get run over by a truck and is splattered in his blood. It seems nothing can go right for her.
When she arrives at her publisher’s office, she receives a rather unusual proposition from Jeremy Crawford, husband to Verity, a famous and successful author, now catatonic following a terrible accident. Lowen is to finish the last three books in a series written by Verity, with the pay being seventy-five thousand for each volume. Naturally, she accepts the offer, and goes to live at the large Crawford family home in Vermont.
While trying to sort through Verity’s notes and see where she was going with her story, she finds a manuscript titled “So Be It.” It turns out to be Verity’s own unpublished biography, and though Lowen’s job doesn’t involve doing much reading, she can’t help herself but become absorbed in the woman’s recollection of her storied past. However, as she reads further and further, the subject matter becomes darker and darker, containing some troubling revelations about the Crawford family.
On one hand, Lowen finds herself increasingly drawn to Jeremy and wants to share what she knows with him, but on the other hand, she recognizes there might be reason to fear him. Slowly but surely, she starts to suspect that perhaps things aren’t as they seem, that perhaps Verity is a truly vile woman, and that maybe, just maybe, the accident which put her in this state wasn’t an accident at all.
A Labyrinth of Lies in Verity
First of all, I would like to point out that for my personal taste, the story took a little long to get started, with the earlier chapters dedicated largely to character-building and setting descriptions. While Colleen Hoover certainly succeeded in getting me well-acquainted with the protagonist and other main players of the novel, I feel like it could have been integrated more naturally over the course of the story.
If you’re of the same predisposition as I am, rest assured that the real plot does kick off without too great of a delay, and once you’ve been dunked in it, the earlier chapters are quite easily forgotten. All in all, not much of a sin to speak of here. Once we see Lowen settling into the Crawford family home, that’s when Hoover begins to slowly lead us down a labyrinthine expanse of family secrets.
Personally, I enjoy it when authors weave these large and complex tapestries of information where one can rarely be certain of what is truth and what isn’t. The author does a fantastic job at playing with this concept in Verity, constantly showering us with information from different sources about the same events, leading to clear contradictions we are pushed to try and solve ourselves.
Most people come to New York to be discovered. The rest of us come here to hide.― Colleen Hoover, Verity
The sources of information and the way it’s imparted to the reader are handled in just the right way so as to distort the concept of truth, to the point where it feels like there is no objectively-verifiable version of events left to speak of. Just when it starts to feel like reality only depends on the person describing it, Hoover brings us back down to Earth, drops some shattering revelations, and keeps on going forward.
Naturally, while it is fun to try and find our own way through this labyrinth, it’s also just as fascinating to see Lowen navigating her way through the mess she has found herself in, holding information she should have never seen in the first place. In large part, her fascinating nature is born from the author’s impressive ability to create complex and multi-layered characters, a talent which I believe plays a large part in making the story as memorable as it is.
Good and Evil Within Us All
For starters, I think the author made the right choice in limiting the amount of characters present in this novel to just a few main ones. This decision alone obviously made it easier to focus in much greater depth on the people present, to spend more time with them as readers, and as a result, become more invested in their fates and inner worlds.
Starting with Lowen, at the beginning she appears to us as just a woman trying to live through life’s misfortunes while only really wanting to write books, and maybe find true love. She doesn’t seem like a bad person in the slightest, and despite her various self-deprecating assessments, we still get the impression she is a good person, destined to be a good and lovable heroine.
And that’s why I stay at home and write. I think the idea of me is better than the reality of me.― Colleen Hoover, Verity
However, as the circumstances around her change, we also see her begin to show sides of her personality we haven’t been privy to before, sides she herself didn’t even know existed. She begins to plot ways in which she could snatch Jeremy away from his ailing wife, to weigh the idea of sharing with him all of his wife’s disturbing confessions in her autobiography. Slowly but surely, we see her insidious aspect crawl out to the surface, which, in my opinion, made her infinitely more interesting and unpredictable.
The same love and attention Colleen Hoover dedicated to Lowen is also given to both Jeremy and Verity, although we naturally mostly get acquainted with the latter through her writing and stories told by others. When it becomes increasingly clear both of them might very well be despicable human beings, they only become more absorbing due to the new internal vistas of theirs we get to witness.
Thinking about it now, the author has achieved something rather interesting in Verity: a cast of characters which only seems to gain from becoming more evil. In my opinion, it’s probably due to Hoover‘s ability to make characters which feel naturally-balanced and hosts to both good and evil, allowing a complex contrast to take place as one side prevails over another.
|336||Grand Central Publishing||Oct. 26 2021||978-1538724736|
The Final Verdict
Verity by Colleen Hoover is an absolutely stunning psychological thriller, with a compelling mystery at the centre of it and exceptionally well-tailored, realistic and fascinating characters driving the story forward.
If the idea of a mystery thriller which heavily leans into psychology and is focused on unearthing a disturbing past filled with fascinating (and terrifying) revelations sounds good to you, then I think you’ll have an absolute blast with this novel.
Colleen Hoover is an American author primarily known for her young adult and romance novels, though she has also dabbled in other genres. Her 2016 novel It Ends with Us is arguably her best-known work to date, achieving the rank of number one on The New York Times best sellers list. Some of her other acclaimed works include All your Perfects, Verity and It Starts with Us.