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The Likeness discussion [chapters 8-10]

“It seemed to me suddenly that I should have known; an ocean away, but it seemed like I should have felt her there all along, like every now and then I should have looked up from my marbles or my textbook or my case report as if someone had called my name. She came all those thousands of miles, close enough to slip on my old name like a sister’s hand-me-down coat, she came pulled like a compass needle and she almost made it. She was only an hour’s drive away. and I should have known; I should have known, in time, to take that last step and find her.”

“The rhythms of his voice washed over me, even and soothing as waves; I barely heard the words. “Time,” I think he said somewhere behind me, or maybe it was “thyme,” I’ve never been sure. “Time works so hard for us, if only we can let it.”

Cassie’s first week at Whitethorn House is something unexpectedly enjoyable. She soon learns why the housemates are not exactly popular at Trinity college, though in their own little world they are extremely close and behave like the type of idyllic family out of children’s-book series and old TV shows. The four of them had been eighteen when they met and, same as Cassie, none had been exactly close to their parents.

On Tuesday, Cassie calls Frank and asks him to do some research on Daniel’s great-uncle death. She tells Frank that even though it’s unlikely that his death had something to do with the housemates, she can’t help noticing how there is something weird about their attachment to the house. Frank has interesting news to share; the FBI guys got a hit on Lexie’s prints: The girl’s real name had been May-Ruth Thibodeaux, born in the US, reported missing a few years earlier.

Sam never asks Cassie about her life as Lexie and chooses to spend their time on the phone chattering about small, mundane things. She never tells him, but feels strangely disconnected to anything related to her former life. Only once Sam inquires about the housemates. He is interested to know if they never go to the local pub, and when Cassie answers that they usually hang out at home, he wonders if there could exist some old resentment towards Daniel’s family among the townsfolk of Glenskehy that might have resulted in Lexie’s murder. Cassie gets slightly defensive at the idea but finally agrees that it is worth a look. Later, Cassie is reading in bed when Abby pays her a visit. She straightforwardly asks her about the baby and Cassie can’t hide her surprise. She admits that the baby didn’t make it and Abby doesn’t prod any further. When she leaves, Cassie allows herself to really think of Lexie’s unborn child for the first time since she learned about it and wonders whether Lexie had been going to keep it.

On Sunday, Franks cheerfully congratulates Cassie on making it through the first week without getting caught. He wants to know what her gut tells her about the case, but Cassie’s feelings are way more complicated than she expects. She has not any intention to share with Frank (or Sam) anything about the diary or about her suspicion that she is being followed during her late-night walks and answers as honestly as she can: There is something they are missing that has yet to surface. Franks informs her then that there hadn’t been anything dodgy about the great-uncle after all.

As the second week starts, Cassie changes her strategy and starts pushing the housemates a little in order to find out what they are not sharing. She realizes, once she starts looking for them, how there are small cracks in the housemates’ seemingly perfect relationship. After a couple of weird incidents, Cassie discovers that the gang has an unspoken rule: They are not allowed to talk about their pasts.

On Wednesday, Cassie learns that May-Ruth Thibodeaux had been another of Lexie’s fake identities. Franks brings up his theory that maybe someone was after her and wasn’t going to give up. He also informs Cassie that if that is the case he understands if she is ready to leave the house. But Cassie already knows there is only one answer she can give: She is staying. Additionally, following the family feud lead Sam finds out that Whitethorn House has been getting vandalized over the last few years, though there has been only two minor incidents since Daniel and the rest moved in. Both Sam and Cassie agree that the person responsible for these acts fits with the profile of Lexie’s killer.

The cracks in the housemates’ relationship keep coming now that Cassie is looking for them. On Monday of Cassie’s third week at Whitethorn House, she finds the opportunity to spend some time alone with Justin. When she hints that she might want to get in touch with her family, Justin asks her to think about it: All of them have reasons why they agreed on the no pasts rule. Later, while she is giving Frank the daily report, Cassie recognizes the meaning of the cryptic page in Lexie’s date book. She had been pricing flights, probably getting ready to run again.

1) Rereading the novel and knowing what happens later, is there something different in the way you approach the scene where Abby asks Cassie about Lexie’s baby? How do you feel about Cassie’s reaction?

2) The notion of hiding behind another persona in order to escape a painful past is a recurring theme in this book—most obviously with Cassie and Lexie but we also see it with the other inhabitants of Whitethorn House. How does the house help the housemates avoid their own histories? Is their choice as unhealthy as it seems?

3) Cassie’s former partner and best friend name’s keeps popping here and there in the less expected places. How do these allusions add to the story?

4) We see how Cassie slowly gets drawn into life at Whitethorn House and develops a certain protectiveness/fondness for Lexie. Do you think they share similarities, personality-wise? What are the differences?

5) The scene in the last chapter where Abby and Daniel discuss Lexie and the guys is pretty cryptic but also somehow enlightening. What did you guess the first time around? And now, what do you make of it?


Next week we'll cover chapters 11-14 :)

It's interesting how there are so many things about Lexie's life that make it easier to tell this whole story in a convincing way, with the fact that she and the people around her already live these secretive lives where they're only concerned about the present, and that gives Cassie a little room to get it wrong because there's already some acknowledgment of facades in the Whitethorn household. But it never feels convenient and contrived and makes the characters and their situation such a unique aspect of the book. (It says a lot that in the end it doesn't seem shocking or interesting to the surviving members that Lexie was living under a fake name. I really want to believe that Lexie did care enough about this group to stay around for good even though it didn't work out that way and she still panicked, and a big part of why I believe this is because of the "no pasts" thing and the fact that she could sort of be herself by completely omitting the type of thing that she would have had to lie about with anybody else. But then, she still lied to them about some things, so I don't know for sure.)

One of my favorite mentions of Rob is in these chapters, when they're at the card table (all-around I just adore the poker scene) and trying to make Rafe feel better and Cassie thinks of Rob hooking his foot around hers under the table <3 For one thing it's nice to have a memory in there on top of all the negative stuff to indicate that he wasn't an all-around shitty friend (LOL).

I actually don't remember what I made of the Abby & Daniel talk the first time around...Though it was obvious that they were actually hiding something from Lexie and it added to my hunch that it was Justin because of how Abby was talking about how she couldn't have expected him to handle the whole thing well at all. It's weird, because I had that idea from so early on but I was still kind of blindsided by the ending somehow, like I assumed one of the housemates had killed Lexie but just imagined it had been more of a total accident (I guess if I'd thought harder about it I would have realized that was a little too anti-climactic).

really want to believe that Lexie did care enough about this group to stay around for good

Mmm… Lexie, I don’t know. I also want to believe that she loved them and wanted to stick with them forever (and to some degree I think this was true, if things had played out differently), but at the same time I have my doubts. I don’t usually have problems with characters freaking out and running away out of desperation or fear of commitment or love or whatever, but in Lexie’s case (partly because of the premise, sure) I‘m finding it difficult to sympathize with her because I don’t get the motives behind her actions (as I’ve said before, I don’t quite remember what turned Lexie into the person she was, so we’ll see if I change my mind later. Though I have this vague feeling that I wasn't entirely happy with Tana's explanation). Anyway, I have this impression that there was something deeply fucked up about Lexie (and not fucked up in a “good” way (lol) or in a way I can be understanding or forgiving). I find it very upsetting, the way she left his fiancé or the way she was planning to leave Whitethorn House, without a word or an explanation, betraying them --though I can see what her reasons might have been in both scenarios. What I just can’t get is why she kept changing personalities; well, I do get it, but it’s as if she was playing the whole time and that is some seriously twisted stuff IMO. (Though I gotta add, the fact that she had probably decided to keep the baby redeems her a little in my eyes, not because it was necessarily the “right” thing to do given the circumstances, that choice was always up to her obviously, but because it looks like she eventually decided to take a shot at something permanent. Also, I can’t help admiring her determination to be free and stay true to herself, whatever that means, even amidst of all those lies).

it's nice to have a memory in there on top of all the negative stuff to indicate that he wasn't an all-around shitty friend

Aw, my poor baby. But we know he was a pretty amazing friend before he completely lost it ;)

the fact that she had probably decided to keep the baby redeems her a little in my eyes... I think I have to believe she was acting on behalf of the baby to sympathize with her at all, really. I find it hard to wrap my head around how she would have gone on with the same pattern of how she'd been living if she'd ended up having a child, so while she always had her messed up reasons for ditching on people it didn't seem to be all about her for once. And even though I mostly doubt she would have been more honest if things had been different, this last time it's easy to understand why she was going to ditch the others with no explanation when the emotions ran dangerously high in that household (I mean, I don't think she imagined they would end up killing her - as it is it wasn't even on purpose - but she had to know things could get pretty aggressive).

I think these chapters contain some of my favorite allusions to Rob. Same as Layla, I love the Rob-hooking-his-foot-around-Cassie’s-ankle memory because it’s just too damn cute. But I think my favorite is when Cassie sees Abby and Daniel talking on the swing seat, Abby sitting sideways with her feet on Daniel’s lap while he has a glass in one hand and the other covering her ankles, and thinks of how they used to sit like that on her sofa. I love the picture of the two of them being like this and talking through their long late nights at Cassie’s. It’s so casually intimate <3.

I actually remember the Daniel and Abby conversation quite well because that was the moment, I think, when I realized things had fallen apart since the incident probably because one of them did it and they were all in it together. It’s not that I wasn’t expecting something like that, but it was sort of a “of course” moment to me (Rereading, I guess it’s pretty obvious that Justin was the one who did it). Also, that talk made me wonder what was going on, exactly, between Daniel and Abby and whether Abby was in love with Daniel (and this, I got it right).

I’d love to talk about all the differences/parallels between Cassie and Lexie because I think it’s a fascinating topic, but my brain is sort of fried now after all the studying I’ve been doing… So I am just going to throw a couple of silly things…. First, I have to say that I am completely in love with the idea of Cassie being half a gymnast and doing all these crazy things with her body when she is in the right mood (all those cartwheels in ITW <333), so I found the moment when the kids are outside drinking and eating cake and she pulls one of her ankles round the back of her head super adorable.

And on a more personal note, it cracked me up when Sam mentioned Ibiza (!!!) to Cassie (nooooo, Ibiza is not all about topless chicks --though you can definitely find many if that is what you are looking for, lol). But I definitely don’t see Sam spending his holidays in a place like Ibiza… Cassie and her friends, maybe, but not Sam (LOL). Also, kind of unrelated, but it surprised me a little that neither of them had been on a proper holiday abroad. I don’t know exactly why, but it did.

Haha, that moment when Cassie puts her ankle behind her head surprised me because it seemed improbable that Lexie would happen to be that flexible too.

I guess the most obvious similarity between Cassie and Lexie is that they're both so good at playing the right roles, in Cassie's case to do undercover work and with Lexie it's like she somehow knew just the right person to be to fit in with this very tightly knit group (unless we believe she naturally belonged there all along). And they both have a youthfulness to them, but it's in pretty different ways. Overall I don't think they're a whole lot alike; Cassie seems to be stubbornly resilient while Lexie is actually stubbornly the opposite.

And I actually thought of you when Sam mentioned Ibiza, LOL.

Mmm… I think there are some similarities between them, at least outwardly, and (aside from the fact that Cassie is naturally gifted for the undercover work) that’s why it becomes so natural for her to get into Lexie’s shoes and fit in with the group. I guess Lexie reminds her of herself before Operation Vestal: confident, happy-natured, bouncy, with that youthfulness you mention (though Lexie seems more immature, sure). And there is also this darker, more complicated side about Lexie’s personality that I feel she can relate to, too. In one of the early chapters, Cassie says that all the best undercovers have a dark thread woven into them, or something along the lines, and I can’t help thinking, this is obviously true for Lexie but also true for Cassie, though in a very different way. Overall, I think the process of impersonating Lexie allows Cassie to connect with her old self, and by drawing the line between them she finds her feet in her own identity again. Or something like that. I don’t know if I am making much sense. LOL.

(Also, I do think both are very resilient! Survivors. But yeah, quite in opposite ways. As I see it, while Lexie runs as much as she can when she is feeling trapped and desperate, Cassie tries to get something solid to hold on to and get over it. Cassie’s approach is the healthiest I guess, but I have the feeling that, deep-down, she kind of admires Lexie’s ability to go for the unknown and grab hold of it with both hands).


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