Study Guide

What I Saw and How I Lied Family

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So I switched on the light to make the magazine picture. The daughter welcoming the dad home, both of them so happy in the picture you could practically smell the pot roast. (4.15)

Evie adores Joe and just wants them all to look like the perfect family. Now that the war's over and he's home, she thinks that maybe it can finally happen… but their Florida trip throws a wrench in her plans.

I always wanted a father. Any kind. A strict one, a funny one, one who bought me pink dresses, one who wished I was a boy. One who traveled, one who never got out of his Morris chair. Doctor, lawyer, Indian chief. I wanted shaving cream in the sink and whistling on the stairs. (9.2)

No wonder Evie fell in love with Joe right away. She clearly was so starved for a father figure that she would have taken to anyone who married her mom and called her his daughter.

Good-bye, Evie Plunkett, I kept saying to myself. Evie Spooner. Evie Spooner. The new name tasted like strawberry jam. I would get that, and a dad, too. (9.20)

When Bev and Joe get married, Evie has no ambivalent feelings about it. She's not the fairytale stepdaughter who stomps her foot and hates her new stepparent—instead she fully embraces Joe as a part of their family.

Mom put down the brush in her hand. She looked at herself in the mirror, and I saw that it cost her something to stand up. But she did. She went over to Joe and put her hand on his shoulder. (13.51)

Being a part of a family—and a marriage—means that sometimes, you have to do things that you don't want to do. Evie's mom hates giving in and placating Joe when she thinks he's wrong, but she has to do it in order to keep the peace.

Then she put her hand out, her palm toward me. I put my palm against hers. We locked fingers.

"You and me," she said.

"Stick like glue."

"Just like Fred and Ginger do," we said together. (16.33-36)

Joe may be Evie's beloved new dad, but she and her mom have a bond that just can't be broken. They've gone through everything together—all of the hard times when Bev was a single parent and they didn't have any money—and now they have to stick together.

"Joe was a good bet for us, sweetie. I saw it right away. I thought, here is a place to rest. Make a real life. Pot roast and potatoes, church on Sundays."

"Did you ever love Joe?" I asked.

"Sure, baby," Mom said. "But not as much as you did." (22.13-14)

All this time, Evie saw her mother's marriage to Joe as one that was based on love. But really, she married Joe for the security that he offered—and for Evie. She knew that they needed someone who would take care of them. It was just the rational choice.

I had to fix Mom and Joe. I'd done it before. The fights they'd had, even before they married, I could always fix them. Everybody had to go to the places they belonged. (22.22)

The most important thing to Evie is that the family they've worked so hard to cobble together stays together. Even though she's just a kid, she sees it as her responsibility to "fix" her parents' marriage.

Joe gripped my arms hard. "We're a family. What's that thing you and your mom say? We stick together like glue. Right?" He waited for my nod. "That's my girl." (27.34)

When Joe and Bev come back from their fateful boating trip without Peter, he plays off of Evie's love of her family in order to ask her to lie for them. Talk about setting a good example as a father figure… not.

"Do you remember right after I got back?" Joe asked. "We went to the city and saw a show and had dinner and came home and fell asleep, the three of us, on the couch, because we didn't want to go to bed?" (29.79)

Like Evie, Joe has this idealized notion of one big happy family—where they're all happy to be with each other all the time and everything is peachy keen, just like on television or in the movies.

So here I was. I would live with Joe and Mom. I had no place else to go. Joe would carve the roast on Sundays. He would put up the Christmas tree. They would hand me the phone, pick up my socks, leave the porch light on. I would never know what happened on the boat that day, but they would be my parents. For the duration. (35.102)

Evie has resigned herself to the fact that when they are back in New York, they will go back to their familial roles. But even though this is the family that she lied to save, it's not the same; she can see the cracks in their picturesque image now. And she's starting to think about the day when she gets out.

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