Pieces of Her, a novel by Karin Slaughter, has been adapted for a Netflix limited series starring Toni Collette from Hereditary. Would you like a refresher before starting the series? Let me give you a brief overview of how Pieces of Her ends. There are a few spoilers in the following paragraphs.
Pieces of Her is a debut novel from 2018 that tells the story of Andrea “Andy” Oliver and her mother Laura Oliver, both respected attorneys, and speech therapists. After a traumatic episode, Andy’s world is turned upside down when she discovers that her beloved mother may be hiding a deep and deadly secret.
During the mall security check, a young man with a revolver and a knife is seen opening fire in front of Laura. She attempts to speak with him. While the knife is running through her hand, Laura stabs the man in the chest with the weapon she was given and then slashes his neck wide open.
In shock, Andy sees everything.
As a result of the horrific incident, Laura is suspected of killing the shooter, who just so happens to be the son of a police officer. Andy must confront what she’s seen her mother do when Gordon defends Andy and his ex-wife from police interrogation. As if this weren’t terrible enough, Laura orders her daughter to leave the house right away.
In her own living room, Laura is being tortured by a man Andy walks by that night, still processing the events of the day.
While Andy was contacting the police, he accidentally killed him with a frying pan. Laura gives her daughter the man’s wallet, car keys, a handgun, and her own key, which she uses to unlock a storage facility in a far-off town near Alabama. With only minutes to spare before the cops arrive, Laura hands over the man’s wallet, car keys, and gun to her daughter. After leaving her phone behind, Andy must travel to the storage facility, take what’s inside her mom’s unit, and then head for Idaho – all without contacting anyone she knows.
There is a car, clothes, $240,000 in cash, polaroids, and a lot of things in the storage unit. As Andy examines these things, he realizes something is wrong. In another instance, Laura told her daughter that Andy’s birthdate was the number of the storage unit, but Andy was born in August. Also, she just found a collection of her baby pictures, including a pair that clearly show signs of tampering – one photo shows her sitting on her birth father’s laps, while the other is identical, but without Andy.
After this point, the novel alternates between two storylines: Andy’s deep dive into her mother’s past in the present day, and the controversy surrounding the Army of the Changing World years ago.
The Army of the Changing World, led by Nick Hart, attempts to assassinate Martin Queller, a powerful businessman whose own children, Jane and Andrew, are members of the cult. Jane Queller — Nick’s lover, pregnant with his child — has spent her entire life being physically and sexually abused by her father, which makes her more amenable to Nick’s orders. But when Nick forbids her from visiting Andrew, who is dying of AIDS, Jane finally decides to leave the Army of the Changing World. After making sure her brother will receive treatment, Jane turns herself in and enters witness protection in exchange for ratting out Nick and the rest of his army.
Back in the present, Andy’s pursuit of the truth takes her to Austin, Texas. There, she meets one of her mom’s old associates, Paula, who gives tells Andy that a woman named Clara living in Illinois might have more answers about her mother. Andy discovers that the stories about her birth father, who supposedly died in a car crash before Laura met Gordon, are all false. Her father is Nick, and her unassuming mother is actually Jane Queller: a former concert pianist who disappeared and started a new life after her father’s, Martin’s, death.
Shortly after Andy arrives at Clara’s house, it is attacked. It’s Paula, who tricked Laura’s naïve daughter into leading her to her old compatriots. As it turns out, Paula has always been Nick’s most zealous devotee, and she has a plan to free him from prison. She injures Clara, kills another person, and kidnaps Andy, whom she agrees to ransom to Laura in exchange for some paperwork that could free Nick.
When Laura arrives, however, Paula threatens and beats her with a revolver. Andy manages to signal to her mother that Paula’s gun is out of bullets, at which point Laura punches a razor blade into the other woman’s throat.
One month after Paula’s death, Laura returns to see Nick while wearing a wire. She confesses to a crime of her own, revealing that she bought the gun used to kill Martin Queller. Nick, who doesn’t know that Laura already served two years in prison for her involvement in Martin’s death, believes himself to have the upper hand. He confesses that he ordered the attacks on her home and Clara’s. With the evidence they need to keep Nick in prison for a long time, Laura and Andy head back home to resume their normal lives.