Study Guide

What I Saw and How I Lied Appearances

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You couldn't stop looking at her. She was a knockout. The way she held a cigarette, the way she danced in the kitchen, the way she could make supper with a cocktail in one hand—that was movie star glamour. You could almost forget she was just a housewife from Queens. (3.5)

Evie's mom is va-va-voom glamorous, even though she's (1) a housewife from Queens, and (2) the mom of a teenager. Cue up "Stacy's Mom" and replace Stacy with Evie, because it's obvious that Bev is a hit with all the boys and men.

"Now there's an attractive couple," Mom said in the voice she used when she approved of something, like Gregory Peck in Duel in the Sun or Butter Rum Life Savers. "I wonder where they're from." (5.44)

Evie's mom shows us that one thing is always true: people will always notice beautiful and glamorous strangers. Even though they know nothing of the attractive couple in the hotel lobby, they pursue a friendship with them because of the je ne sais pas that they exude.

I looked in the mirror. My hair was frizzy. My arms were skinny and I was too tall. I looked like a dog on its hind legs. I felt tears spurt into my eyes, and my humiliation was complete. (6.20)

Poor Evie. She thought that she'd have some kind of Pretty Woman transformation (without the prostitution shadiness), but instead she just looks like she's trying too hard—and is as awkward as ever. Even her mom's laughing at her.

I followed Mom to the door of the hotel. My old blue skirt swished flirtatiously against my legs as I copied the sway of her walk. We walked out together like two Lana Turners, leaving the men at the table watching us go. We could feel their gazes. We didn't even have to turn around to know it. (8.92)

If there's one thing that Evie can learn from her mom, it's how to work it. After all, if anyone's still got the moves, it's Bev—who is both movie star pretty and charming. Will Evie follow in her mother's footsteps?

"Your problem is that your mom's such a looker. You get all balled up. You can't even see what's in front of you in the mirror. So you've got to listen to an older brother type like me. You're pretty." (10.57)

Evie is convinced that she's ugly and plain, but Peter explains to her that it's not the case at all—it's just that her mom is so beautiful that Evie looks ugly by comparison. Is that some kind of backhanded compliment or what?

How did a woman do it, get you to think she was beautiful when she wasn't? She had a flat face and a wide mouth and small nut-brown eyes. It didn't add up to much if you saw her, say, with wet hair in the pool. But if you watched the way she moved through a room or bent over to pick up a drink, you couldn't stop watching. (11.42)

Mrs. Grayson's beauty is a kind of optical illusion. She doesn't have a naturally or conventionally beautiful face, but she carries herself like a gorgeous woman—and that makes all the difference.

"One thing I was always happy about, Evie. I was happy you grew up plain, all knees and elbows. You weren't some curly-headed doll. It meant you'd use your brain. And you did. I wanted to keep you that way for as long as I could. When you started getting pretty, I didn't want you to know." (22.3)

Instead of being one of those parents who always tells their (ugly) children how beautiful they are, Evie's mom takes the opposite tact. That's because for her, beauty isn't some kind of wonderful gift; it's a burden.

Mr. Toomer asked her to remove her hat. Mrs. Spooner's fingers fumbled as she did so. When she pulled it off, her blond hair tumbled to her shoulders and glinted in the sunlight that streamed through the courtroom window. (29.17)

Evie's mom was right when she said that her beauty just made people think the worst about her. Even in the courtroom, people see how beautiful she is and immediately think about sex, lust, and infidelity.

A couple had come in, in high spirits, said Iris, and browsed. She remembered them because they were both "so attractive." The woman was dressed all in white. They bought a pineapple vase. They laughed together as the man paid for it. She recognized the man in the picture in the paper. (29.14)

Aw, shucks—it's too bad for Bev and Peter that they're just so attractive. If they weren't so noticeably good-looking, maybe it would have been easier to get away with their torrid little affair.

I looked like a doll, a dish. The image in the mirror—it wasn't me.

If I had the clothes and the walk, I could make up a whole new person. I wasn't who I used to be, anyway. A different me would do the thing I had to do today. The dish would do it. (33.3-4)

Evie finally figures out how to look grown-up and beautiful, but it's for the worst reason ever. Instead of using her newfound skills to woo Peter, she ends up using them to help her parents get away with murder—literally.

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