Study Guide

What I Saw and How I Lied Summary

By Judy Blundell

What I Saw and How I Lied Summary

At the beginning of What I Saw and How I Lied, Evie is just an ordinary fifteen-year-old girl who's happy that her stepfather has come home from WWII, and is enjoying an afternoon out with her best friend, Margie. Margie makes fun of a Jewish girl named Ruthie, which makes Evie uncomfortable, but she just goes home to the house where she and her mother live with Joe (her stepfather) and his cranky old mother, Grandma Glad.

Grandma Glad is anything but glad that Evie and her mom live there, ironically. Joe suggests that they go to Palm Beach—just him, Evie's mom, and Evie—and they agree. That night, they all pack up, then get on the road the next morning.

After driving for several days, they finally reach Palm Beach. It turns out that in the off-season, almost nothing is open. Still, they find a hotel open and get settled in, spending their days hanging out at the pool, drinking cocktails (the parents, at least), and going to the beach. Clearly vacationing hasn't changed much since the 1940s.

Evie's parents befriend a glamorous couple named the Graysons, and Joe starts to discuss a business deal to buy out the hotel with Mr. Grayson. Evie sees a high school dance going on at the hotel one night and decides to get dressed up and crash it. Only the ugliest boy—a bellhop named Wally—asks her to dance though, so she excuses herself to go sit by the pool, where she meets a ridiculously handsome young man named Peter Coleridge. She and Peter dance by the pool, and she is immediately smitten.

The next day at breakfast, Evie runs into Peter again and is delighted to introduce him to her parents. Peter says that he knows Joe from serving in the army, but Joe says that he doesn't remember him. Evie starts hanging out with Peter a lot, with her mom serving as chaperone. Joe doesn't like Peter very much, but Evie and Bev (her mother) don't tell him that they're going for rides almost every single day with Peter. The whole time, Evie thinks that she is falling in love with Peter and that he loves her too, especially after they share a brief kiss by the beach one day.

Joe and Mr. Grayson announce that they are definitely going into business together, and Mr. Grayson offers to take them all to dinner in order to celebrate. The dinner turns awkward, with Joe drinking too much; at one point, he even punches Peter who calls him a dirty rat. Yikes, right?

When they return to the hotel, the hotel manager kicks the Graysons out because he has discovered that they are Jewish. World War II may be over, but apparently anti-Semitism is alive and well in Palm Beach. Ugh.

Evie is confused and runs off to find Peter, finally spotting him at a house that he claims to be staying at. He tells her that he and Joe do know each other from the war. Say what? They stole a suitcase of gold together and were supposed to split it, apparently, but Joe made off with all the money and now refuses to give Peter his cut. Peter kisses Evie, and things start to get a little steamy… until her mother comes along, and yells at her to get into the car. After Evie gets into the car, her mother tells her that it has to stop here, but that she won't tell Joe what happened.

The next day, Evie is surprised to see Peter at the hotel again. Joe suggests that he, Bev, and Peter go for a boat ride while Evie stays at the hotel to do homework. They go out, promising that they'll be back by the afternoon—but they don't return because a hurricane starts to brew.

Frustrated and worried, Evie goes for a walk with Wally and gets the idea to seduce him in order to practice her grown-up sensual skills to be used on Peter later. She changes her mind halfway through and shoves Wally away, and her skirt gets ripped in the process. When they get back to the hotel, the manager fires Wally for fraternizing with guests. It's official: Wally isn't having a good day.

All of the residents of Palm Beach are evacuated to a courthouse in West Palm to wait out the storm. Evie goes to a policeman's house to wait, and a couple days later is finally told that her parents have been found. However, she is also told that Peter drowned in the storm… something that she finds hard to believe.

The police find Peter's body and tell Evie's parents that they have to question them, since they suspect that there may have been foul play involved. When the story comes out, Evie realizes that her mother was carrying on an affair with Peter Coleridge, and that she was their cover this whole time. And just like that, Shmoopsters, the plot thickens.

During the trial, her parents tell her to lie and say that they didn't know Peter that well. Wally acts as a surprise witness and says that he saw Evie's mom making out with Peter on the beach—he recognizes her from the dress that she wore. However, Evie decides to testify in order to save her parents, who look very guilty by now—she tells the judge that she was the one carrying on an illicit affair with Peter, and that she wore her mother's dress to go meet him that night. After that, Peter's death is ruled an accident and the whole family heads back to New York.

When Evie returns to New York, she stops being friends with Margie and instead hangs out with Ruthie Kalman. She also takes the rest of the money that Joe had (that he stole in the war) and takes it over to the Graysons' apartment, where she gives them the money so that they can use it for the Jewish families affected by the war. Then she heads back home, musing that she no longer wants to be like her parents; she wants to be her own person. Can't say we blame her.

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