On May 28th, Adora is arrested for the murders of Ann Nash, Natalie Keene, and Marian. Alan bails her out so that she can await trial “in the comfort of her home,” and Camille, meanwhile, takes custody of Amma. Two days after Adora’s arrest, Camille and Amma drive back to Chicago together.
Towards the very end of the novel, Camille replaces Adora as Amma’s mother figure—even in light of knowing what a difficult task she has in front of her.
Back in Chicago, Amma exhausts Camille—she is needy and anxious, constantly pacing around the apartment. Camille believes that Amma is burning off “all [the] extra energy” she has from not being bedridden several times a month due to Adora’s poisons.
Amma proves a difficult child—she is reeling from her past traumas, and figuring out what it means to live a life free of abuse and illness.
By August, Amma has become “obsessed” with female killers, reading everything she can about violent women she considers “special.” Amma’s therapist tells Camille that Amma is probably trying to find a way to forgive Adora. After a couple sessions, Amma refuses to go back to therapy, and instead spends almost all of her time hard at work on her dollhouse. Amma demands that Camille buy her expensive figurines and furnishings for the dollhouse and becomes angry and violent when Camille refuses.
Amma’s coping mechanisms are unorthodox to say the least—her fascination with female perpetrators of violence, not to mention her continued obsession with perfection and her tendency towards intense anger when she doesn’t get her way shows that she is having trouble moving on from all that transpired in Wind Gap.
Alan sends money for Amma to attend private school, and Amma quickly makes a small group of friends who idolize her almost instantly. One of the girls, Lily, becomes a “fixture” at Camille’s apartment, and Camille enjoys Lily’s company. Once Amma notices how much Camille likes Lily, she grows quiet each time Lily visits, and soon begins shutting Lily out.
Amma remains jealous, and obsessed with securing the adoration and favoritism of others.
One night, Camille wakes up in the middle of the night to find Amma standing over her bed. Amma accuses Camille of liking Lily better than her. Camille notices that Amma is feverish, and guides her into the bathroom to place a washcloth on her head and give her aspirin. As she cares for Amma, Camille finds herself thinking of Adora, and wondering if she herself would “like taking care of a sick little girl.” Amma strips naked, demanding Camille wash her in the tub and rub her down with alcohol, the way Adora “does it.” Camille notices a scar on Amma’s hip. Amma begins crying, and Camille reassures Amma that they are not going to do things the way Adora did any longer.
As Camille and Amma struggle together to reckon with what Adora’s abuses have done to them—individually and together—there is a lot of pain, anger, and resentment that they must work through. Amma seems both desperate to recreate Adora’s ministrations, and fearful of subjecting herself to them once again—this tension shows how dependent she has become on Adora’s poisonous mix of love and violence.
On October 12th, Lily disappears on her way home from school—her body is found “propped tidily next to a Dumpster” three blocks from Camille’s apartment just a few hours later. Six of her teeth have been pulled. Hearing the news, Camille immediately calls the Wind Gap police department to confirm that Adora is in fact in her home.
When Lily Burke turns up dead, murdered the way Ann and Natalie were, and Adora is nowhere near Chicago, the awful truth descents upon Camille—Amma, not Adora, killed Ann and Natalie and took their teeth.
Camille begins tearing through the apartment, looking under seat cushions and in drawers for evidence of Amma’s guilt. Amma trails her “like an angry dog” the whole time. When Camille gets to Amma’s room, she sweeps out the dollhouse room by room, ruining its contents. After removing the toy bed from Adora’s “room” of the dollhouse, Camille and Amma both scream: the ivory floor is made out of human teeth.
The realization that Amma killed Ann, Natalie, and Lily and used them for their teeth in pursuit of perfecting her dollhouse marks Amma as perhaps the most ruthless character in the entire novel—like Camille, she learned at Adora’s feet.
In the aftermath of Camille’s discovery, the investigation in Wind Gap reopens. Amma’s friends Kelsey, Kylie, and Jodes admit to helping Amma with the murders of Ann and Natalie, in exchange for lighter sentences in a psychiatric hospital. The circumstances of each killing come to light: for Ann, the girls picked her up in their golf cart and took her to the woods, enjoying a tea party and dress-up before marching Ann towards the creek. The three blondes held Ann down while she struggled, biting Amma on the hip as Amma strangled her. It took Amma an hour to pull the teeth, after which the girls dumped Ann’s body in the water, went back to Kelsey’s house, and watched a movie while drinking wine out of Sprite bottles.
As the truth, at last, comes to light in full, the horrifying details of the murders are thrown up against Amma and her friends’ blasé attitudes towards the intense violence they perpetrated against girls who had once been their friends.
To get Natalie, Amma draped herself in a white sheet styled to look like a Grecian dress and powdered herself pale. Amma “spirited” Natalie through the woods and back to Kelsey’s carriage house, where the girls together held her hostage for 48 hours, playing dress-up with her, shaving her legs, and feeding her in shifts. Again, when the time came, Amma strangled Natalie and pulled her teeth. At four in the morning, the girls drove Natalie’s body in their golf cart to the center of town, where they propped her up.
Amma’s fanciful desire to be a Grecian goddess was given its murderous fulfillment when she took Natalie into the woods. The fact that Amma proceeded to hold Natalie hostage and torture her by grooming her—modeling her violence upon Adora’s—shows just how deeply Adora’s years of abuse affected Amma in the end.
Amma acted alone in killing Lily, Camille notes. Amma stunned Lily with a rock, strangled her, plucked her teeth, and cut her hair, then braided the strands into a rug for Camille’s room in the dollhouse.
Amma transfigured pieces of her female friends into accessories for her dollhouse—wickedly morphing them into parts.