I took the sign that Joe called him Pete, not Peter, as a good sign. I didn't hear then how Joe smacked his lips against the P and made it sound like an insult. I only heard the familiarity. (8.90)
When Peter first shows up for breakfast at the hotel, Joe acts like he doesn't remember serving in the war with him. But there's obviously some familiarity—and animosity—there. What's their history, anyway?
But here's the thing: Mom never had a nickname. Joe made it up. He conjured up the headline he wanted right of the air, like Mandrake the Magician. He sold it the way he sold appliances. (9.16)
Joe's a natural born salesman… which means that he's a natural born liar too. When it's just little things like elaborating their cute love story to the magazine, it's harmless—but later on, his lies take on a different, darker shape.
Mom and I never said anything to each other, but we didn't have to. She knew and I knew that it was better not to mention our drives with Peter. We struck a bargain, but we didn't have to talk about it. (16.54)
For some reason, Joe doesn't want Bev and Evie hanging out with Peter. But they're both infatuated with him in their own way, and so they agree to lie to Joe—or at least to omit the truth—when it comes to how much time they're spending with their handsome new beau.
I looked around the parking lot. Her car wasn't there. I was about to tell Joe, but I realized he'd already noticed. Still, we sat in the car, staring at the wet grass, until every last golfer left the course and the thunder boomed. (17.10)
Uh-oh. Bev told Evie and Joe that she was going to play golf, but it turns out that she's nowhere to be seen when they arrive at the golf course. Where could she possibly be? Is she keeping a secret life from them?
"You say I'm good. I don't need good. I need to know things. I need to know why Joe drinks so much, and why he hates you. Why he wants to move here. Why he wants to get away." (20.29)
Evie doesn't like the amount of lies piling up around her. She's sick of it, and she wants to know the truth about Peter's relationship—and past—with Joe. She's not an oblivious little kid anymore; she knows that something is going on beneath the surface.
"I'm not going to tell Joe," she said.
I looked at her, surprised.
"This will have to be our secret. And it can't happen again. It's already gone too far." (20.118-120)
After Bev catches Evie making out hot-and-heavy with Peter Coleridge, she tells her that as long as it stops now, she won't tell Joe. Is Bev giving her daughter a break, or is she protecting her own indiscretions?
"Mom," I gulped in air so I could get the question out. "What really happened? Tell me. What happened on the boat?"
She rolled away from me. "Just what we said, baby. Now go to sleep." (26.35-36)
Even though Evie wants to believe her parents, things aren't completely adding up when it comes to Peter's death. After all, he was a great sailor and knew how to swim like no one's business. So why would he be the one to fall overboard and drown?
"So, if you don't remember something clearly, like who said what, then maybe it's better to say you don't remember at all," Mom said. "Understand?"
I did understand. "You want me to lie," I said. (27.25-26)
Growing up somehow also means that Evie has to lie in order to keep her parents safe. She doesn't get to hide behind her childhood innocence and goodness anymore; they're going to taint her with the burden of deception.
All that time it had been him and her, not him and me.
The world went white for just an instant. Then pain roared in. With all the lies around me, this was the worst. This was the one I couldn't stomach. (29.22-23)
Evie already resents her parents for lying to her about the boating accident, but she can't believe that her mother would lie to her about an affair with Peter. All this time, they've played her for a fool and she's been the cover for their illicit dealings—all while thinking that she's the one that Peter is interested in.
"No," I said. I looked right at him when I said it, just the way Joe had told me to when he'd taught me how to lie. Just the way he'd looked at me when he told me he hadn't killed Peter. (30.38)
All the Spooners are such great liars—Joe is good at lying about whether or not he killed Peter, Bev is good at lying about her affair, and Evie is good at lying under oath in front of a judge. How are they ever going to trust each other?