It is early December, but in LA it is hot and smoggy. It is the day of the speech at the mentorship summit, and the event is packed: waiters circle through the main lobby passing out Bellinis and fancy canapes, there is a “discreet” manicure station set up, and a feminist psychic offers readings in a corner of the room. The audience is wealthy, progressive, and well dressed. Greer and the speaker from Ecuador, Lupe Izurieta, stand together off to the side, watching the hustle and bustle of the summit.
As the summit begins, Wolitzer portrays it in a slightly unforgiving light. It is more a display of wealth and status than it is a sociopolitical investigation into the state of feminism and women’s rights around the world, and as Greer and Lupe stand at the edge of it, they both feel wildly out of place.
Greer communicates with Lupe in mediocre Spanish, asking if she wants anything to eat. Lupe is painfully shy and refuses Greer’s offers of food. A tech guy comes up to the two of them and outfits them with microphones—their speech starts in fifteen minutes. Greer and Lupe are both nervous, and Greer can still hardly believe that Faith is allowing her to deliver the keynote and wonders why she entrusted it to her. Greer remembers something Faith said a long time ago: men only give women the powers and duties that they themselves don’t want. Greer wonders if this is what is happening to her now, though she knows she and Faith have had many moments of mutual connection over the last four years, especially when Greer was suffering through her breakup with Cory.
Greer is suddenly in a position of relative power at Loci—all she has wanted for the last four years. She finds herself slightly overwhelmed, and as a result, she is overtaken by impostor syndrome—the feeling that she hasn’t really deserved the honor being given to her and that there must be some alternate reason that Faith has entrusted her with delivering the keynote. Greer has attained a measure of power, but her own inner personal fortitude is still wavering.
Now, Greer and Cory speak only intermittently, and every time she goes home, she is only able to see him as a “skinny grown man who live[s] in his mother’s house with a plastic-covered sofa and video games and a turtle.” Greer has had a few short-lived romantic flings over the years and has honed her “look” so that she now stands out as refined and attractive where she was once awkward and gangly. She has become better at flirting, but the most consequential “relationship” she’s had in recent years was a brief romance with a man from Loci, though she realizes now that “sadness” led her to his sofa bed in Fort Greene.
As Greer has matured, she has navigated the complicated world of interpersonal relationships with a slight shortage of grace. She looks down on her former boyfriend Cory for his choices, which she sees as unambitious, and has sought to rid herself of her sadness over her and Cory’s estrangement through short-term connections and romances.
Greer walks out onto the large stage, nervous and quivering. She begins her speech, thanking Faith for the opportunity to deliver the keynote and praising her for giving Greer “permission to be the person [she has] secretly long[ed] to be.” After Greer’s speech concludes, she introduces Lupe, emphasizing to the gathered crowd that Lupe is receiving help in recovering from a traumatic time in her life through Loci’s mentorship program.
Greer steps into her moment in the spotlight gracefully and gratefully, thanking Faith for all of the support she has shown her over the years and the trust she has given her now.
Lupe stands at the podium and begins to read slowly and carefully in Spanish, while Greer translates her words into English. Lupe speaks gratefully about the mentorship program and explains that as a result of it, she is slowly learning to speak English, as well as how to use a hand loom and how to knit. The audience responds to Lupe’s speech with thunderous applause, and as Greer and Lupe return to the lobby, they are showered with praise and affection. One woman gifts Lupe with some knitting needles and a ball of wool, while another approaches Greer to discuss the meaningful nature of mentorship.
This passage demonstrates how the idea of female mentor-mentee relationships have become valuable commodities in the community. The idea of women passing their power along to other younger, less powerful women is captivating and alluring, and Greer wants to play a part in the cycle of this transfer of power. This harkens back to her earlier fascination with playing a stereotypically feminine role and thus embodying her place in the long chain of women who have come before her.
After the summit, Greer and Lupe return to their connected rooms at a nearby hotel. Greer knocks on Lupe’s door and asks Lupe in her best Spanish if she would like to go out for a celebratory dinner. Lupe does not seem to understand, however, and Greer asks if she can come inside to talk to Lupe more closely. Lupe’s room is sparse and looks “barely occupied,” and Greer wishes she could tell Lupe to spread out and make herself at home, but she does not want to put any pressure on Lupe or make her feel bad. The two of them order room service and eat it together while watching a movie on TV. Greer wishes she could talk more with Lupe and ask her what she thinks about the summit, America, and everything that has happened to her. She feels protective of Lupe, like Lupe is “hers.”
In this passage, Wolitzer attempts to demonstrate the perspective of someone with power attempting to hand it down to someone else. For most of the novel, she has focused mostly on young women attempting to amass power—now that Greer has some, she is in the awkward position of navigating how to share it with Lupe, and how to bolster Lupe’s own sense of personal fortitude despite the many barriers between the two women.
The next morning, on the flight back to New York—which is only the third plane trip that Lupe has ever been on, after the flight from Quito to New York and New York to LA—Greer notices how nervous and upset Lupe seems. Greer, seeing the gifted wool and knitting needles in Lupe’s carry-on bag, gestures to it and suggests that knitting might calm Lupe down, but Lupe simply shakes her head. A day later, Lupe returns to Ecuador, and Greer receives an email from a former employee of ShraderCapital, Kim Russo—she wants to talk to Greer “in confidence,” and notes that what she has to say is important.
As the summit comes to a close, Greer feels happy about the way things went, but there is also the sense that something is not quite right—or at least unfinished. Things end on an odd note with Lupe, and with the email from Kim Russo, it seems as if something is brewing on the horizon.
Greer meets Kim for coffee the following morning. Kim tells Greer that someone sent her a video of Greer’s speech, and she thought that Greer was very good—but she needs to tell Greer something. After a moment, Kim informs Greer that Loci’s mentor program in Ecuador is “bullshit.” Greer tells Kim that she appreciates her opinion—she knows that the program seems to some like “privileged meddling.” Kim tells Greer that Greer has misunderstood—the program is “bullshit” in that it doesn’t exist at all.
The revelation that the mentorship program in Ecuador—the project which everyone at Loci is most excited about and the centerpiece of the recent summit on mentorship—is a falsehood is so shocking to Greer that she has trouble absorbing Kim’s statement as the truth.
Greer doesn’t believe Kim, but Kim insists she is telling the truth. She tells Greer that “they”—Faith and Emmett—sent Greer out on stage in LA knowing that the mentorship program was a ruse, and that they should be held accountable. Greer doesn’t think that what Kim is saying makes any sense and asks how she came to be in possession of this information. Kim tells Greer that she was in on the meetings at ShraderCapital when the people upstairs were planning the program. Though the rescue was real, the mentorship part of the plan never happened, and ShraderCapital just pretended that it did. Alejandra Sosa was sidelined for a new, unnamed contact in Ecuador, and that woman failed to set up the program. ShraderCapital has continued to accept donations meant for the program, afraid of the PR scandal that would surely unfold if they came forward with the truth.
Greer refuses to believe that her own mentor, Faith, would have consciously sent her to the wolves by sending her out on stage to deliver a speech about a false entity. However, Greer does remember being dogged by suspicions that she was only getting to deliver the speech because Faith didn’t want to. As Kim explains the details about the failure of the mentorship program, Greer struggles to keep up while also cycling through her own disappointment and desperation for answers.
Overwhelmed, Greer closes her eyes. She asks Kim how Lupe would have been able to give her speech about her mentor if what was in it hadn’t been true. Kim tells Greer that someone probably wrote the speech for her. Greer, of course, realizes that she was the one to write the speech—at Faith’s request. She realizes now that perhaps Lupe was not so frightened to get up and speak because of her past trauma, but because she knew that what she was essentially being told to say was a lie. She realizes that Lupe did not knit on the flight home because she never learned how—her “mentor” is a lie.
As Greer comes to the painful and embarrassing realization that she is part of the mechanism that has perpetuated the lies about the mentorship program, she is overcome with shame and even anger. Greer was so desperate to impress her own mentor that she let down the woman who was supposed to be her own mentee—Lupe. For all her listening skills, Greer has failed to listen to the true story of a woman in actual need.
Half an hour later, when Greer gets to work, she heads straight to Faith’s office and asks if they can speak in private, but Faith tells Greer that she is heading out for a hair appointment—she has a TV appearance later. She urges Greer to meet her at the salon at noon.
Greer has a pressing matter to discuss, but Faith is more concerned with readying herself for an appearance that will advance her own personal image and brand.
When Greer arrives at the salon, she is led back to a screened VIP area, where Faith sits with her hair wrapped in foils. Greer is shocked to see Faith getting her hair dyed, and Faith herself admits that she feels guilty about dyeing her hair but is not ready to go gray yet. Faith tells Greer that they have thirty minutes to talk and urges Greer to speak her mind. Greer does not want to shatter one of her rare and special one-on-one moments with Faith but knows she must bring up the mentorship program. She tells Faith what she knows—that the program doesn’t exist and never did, but that ShraderCapital has been continuing to take money from investors and donors.
Greer sees Faith in a stunning new light as this passage unfolds. She is unable to comprehend how her beloved mentor could have knowingly roped her into such deception, and as she watches Faith getting her hair dyed, she understands that the beauty routine is a metaphor for all the ways in which Faith Frank has disguised her “real” self from her adoring mentees, employees, and public supporters.
Faith asks if the rescue, at least, was real, and Greer tells her that it was. Faith is disappointed and angry, and she expresses her disbelief in ShraderCapital—they often cut corners, she says, but this is unheard of. Greer feels a wash of relief as she realizes that Faith hadn’t known the truth either. Faith laments how “gullible” she has been by going into business with ShraderCapital, and the two women share a moment of reflective silence. Faith breaks the moment by asking Greer what she hoped to accomplish by “rushing in” and telling her the news. Greer, confused, tells Faith that she simply wanted to tell her the truth. She asks Faith not to be angry with her, and then inquires what Faith will do in the face of this news. Faith tells her, however, that there is “no next move.”
The realization that Faith did not know what was actually going on at ShraderCapital is both a relief and another blow to Greer. Although her mentor wasn’t outright lying to her, Greer comes to realize that over the years, Faith has become more preoccupied with the public’s perception of her than with ensuring that everything at her organization is running smoothly. However, it is clear that Faith would have rather lived in ignorance, and even now that she knows what ShraderCapital has been up to, she is not planning to take any action.
Greer suggests breaking with ShraderCapital, but Faith points out that doing so would cut off funds completely and prevent Loci from accomplishing its mission of spreading the word about the “plight of women everywhere.” Faith knows that similar organizations to Loci have to scrounge and scrape for funds, and she does not want to have to do that. She resigns herself to having foolishly ignored her own belief that “doing good and taking money don’t go together.” Greer timidly asks Faith if she is going to just accept ShraderCapital’s fraud. Faith says that though she is “disgusted” by the fraudulent mentor program, she is mostly just depressed. She admits that she has had to adjust her expectations for Loci and implies that she will just keep doing so now.
Faith reveals that activism always comes with a price or at least a trade-off. In the case of Loci and ShraderCapital, Faith has accepted the knowledge that while she will receive a nearly limitless amount of money and thus power to elevate awareness about the “plight” of women, there is always a dark underbelly to the goals she hopes to achieve.
Greer asks if Faith plans to just go back to work and act like nothing has happened. She has trouble reconciling this version of Faith with the Faith she first met in the Ryland Chapel all those years ago—the Faith who made her feel like she, and the work she wanted to do on behalf of women, truly mattered. Greer wonders where Lupe is and what she’s doing, and she thinks sadly of her own complicity in causing Lupe more pain.
In these passages, Greer’s world is slowly beginning to crumble around her. The foundation she works for is a lie, the man who made it possible is a liar, her mentor is too weary or too fearful to speak out, and she herself is complicit in the subjugation of an innocent young woman who has been through enough trauma already.
Greer asks once more if Faith is going to just keep working for ShraderCapital. Growing agitated, Faith explains that when one goes into charitable work, one knows that some will get skimmed off the top—corruption is inevitable. Throughout her own life, Faith has been weighing that corruption against the potential good she can do. Greer tells Faith she cannot believe that Faith wants to stay at Loci, but Faith is resolute—she does not want to start over. She apologizes to Greer for having sent her up on stage in LA to perpetuate a lie.
Faith asks Greer to keep believing in what they are doing at Loci and to help her “keep a tighter leash” on ShraderCapital upstairs. Just at that moment, Faith’s assistant appears and begins prepping Faith for a TV interview she has later that day. Greer is shocked and appalled to realize that Faith is still going to go on TV and talk up the fake mentorship program. As Greer looks around the salon at all the women “sitting patiently in their vulnerability and vanity,” she considers how Faith’s life and career have always been about weighing corruption versus good.
The questionable decisions Faith is making in these passages escalate right before Greer’s eyes. Greer is disappointed and scandalized to realize that even in the light of the knowledge of the truth about her foundation, Faith is going to remain complicit in perpetuating the lies that have kept it going rather than take a stand on behalf of the very women she is lying about protecting and mentoring.
When Greer and Faith arrive back at Loci, Faith heads to her office, and Greer follows her. She asks, one more time, if she is really planning to discuss the mentorship program on TV later that afternoon. Faith says that she is—it was in the pre-interview package, and there is nothing she can do now. Greer suggests Faith cancel, but Faith counters that there are many other things she wants to talk about and call attention to—Loci is in need of press. Greer tells Faith that they don’t need the press to work on behalf of women. As Greer falls apart, she tells Faith that she cannot continue working at Loci and turns to leave.
Greer reaches a breaking point, at last, once she fails entirely to convince Faith that the right thing to do is to stop perpetuating ShraderCapital’s lies. Greer’s own personal fortitude shines through in this moment, as she makes the decision to abandon the organization she once believed in—and the woman who has been such a momentous influence in her life.
As Greer heads out of Faith’s office, she realizes that everyone else is staring at her. When she reaches the door, Faith speaks up—she points out that it’s “funny” that Greer is leaving in an attempt to make a statement about how much she cares about women, when years ago, Greer stabbed Zee in the back by refusing to give her letter to Faith. Greer feels as if she is about to faint, but also wonders if Faith has a right to be angry with her. Faith had put some trust in Greer, and now Greer is abandoning her to deal with ShraderCapital on her own. Faith asks Greer what she did with the letter. Rather than answer her, or faint, Greer turns and runs.
Faith is hurt, angry, and embarrassed by all that has transpired that afternoon, so she makes a last-ditch effort to lash out at her favorite mentee, Greer, whom she knows has exceeded her in terms of personal fortitude and morality. By bringing up the letter, Faith calls Greer’s true allegiance to feminism into question. Confronted with the mistakes of her past, Greer flees, hoping she can outrun the flood of shame and pain Faith has unleashed on her.