The beginning of What I Saw and How I Lied presents the reader with the Spooner family—Joe, Bev, and Evie—who are heading to Palm Beach for a ritzy vacation. Joe has returned from serving in WWII, and they all just want to be a happy, normal family again—you know, Brady Bunch style. This vacation is supposed to bring them all closer to each other.
Evie is just hanging out at the hotel while her parents do "grown-up" things (like drink cocktails and play golf—how boring), but the appearance of a handsome young man named Peter Coleridge changes it all. He claims to have known Joe in the war, and Joe is visibly on edge and uncomfortable in his presence.
But Evie falls in love with Peter anyway because forbidden love is so totally cool (and in this case, ridiculously good looking), and they start spending a lot of time together—with her mother acting as chaperone. In the meantime, Joe is trying to finalize a business deal with the Graysons, the ultra-glam couple at the hotel. For each of our characters, then, things are on the move.
Out to Sea
Things get really intense when the Graysons are kicked out of the hotel for being Jewish—and the deal Joe's made with Mr. Grayson falls through. In the meantime, Evie's mom catches her making out with Peter and is furious. Oops.
Evie also learns that Peter followed them here; he's trying to get money from Joe because while they were in the war, they both stole money from a warehouse of belongings left behind by Jewish people on their way to concentration camps. The next day, Joe suggests that he, Bev, and Peter go for a boat ride. After a hurricane keeps them out on the water for a long time, they return—but Peter has gone to swim with the fishes. He's dead. Dun dun dun…
The Truth Comes Out
After Evie's parents return, Peter's death is deemed suspicious. (Gee, ya think?) The truth comes out: Bev was having an affair with Peter this whole time, and the police think that Joe killed him for this reason. Evie suspects that Joe killed Peter because of the money and the affair, but she has no proof. But instead of telling the truth to the judge, she lies and says that she was the one having an affair with Peter Coleridge (you wish, girl), allowing her parents to get off without a scratch on their records.
Home Sweet Home
The Spooners return home, and Evie's parents act like everything's going to go back to normal; they're going to move back into their house and just play at being your cookie cutter, all-American family. Evie's not fooled though, and knows that she's changed forever. She takes Joe's stolen money and gives it to the Graysons, telling them that it was taken from dead Jewish people, so they should have it and do some good with it. Then she goes home, thinking that her mother is no longer her hero—in fact, she never wants to be like her mom.