Thursday, April 30, 2009

Review: Life Sentences by Laura Lippman

Laura Lippman is one of my favorite authors! She has a fun writing style and brings such life to her characters. Her latest book, Life Sentences, is no exception.

Summary: Author Cassandra Fallows has achieved remarkable success by baring her life on the page. Her two widely popular memoirs continue to sell briskly, acclaimed for their brutal, unexpurgated candor about friends, family, lovers—and herself. But now, after a singularly unsuccessful stab at fiction, Cassandra believes she may have found the story that will enable her triumphant return to nonfiction.

When Cassandra was a girl, growing up in a racially diverse middle-class neighborhood in Baltimore, her best friends were all black: elegant, privileged Donna; sharp, shrewd Tisha; wild and worldly Fatima. A fifth girl orbited their world—a shy, quiet, unobtrusive child named Calliope Jenkins—who, years later, would be accused of killing her infant son. Yet the boy's body was never found and Calliope's unrelenting silence on the subject forced a judge to jail her for contempt. For seven years, Calliope refused to speak and the court was finally forced to let her go. Cassandra believes this still unsolved real-life mystery, largely unknown outside Baltimore, could be her next bestseller.

But her homecoming and latest journey into the past will not be welcomed by everyone, especially by her former friends, who are unimpressed with Cassandra's success—and are insistent on their own version of their shared history. And by delving too deeply into Calliope's dark secrets, Cassandra may inadvertently unearth a few of her own—forcing her to reexamine the memories she holds most precious, as the stark light of truth illuminates a mother's pain, a father's betrayal . . . and what really transpired on a terrible day that changed not only a family but an entire country.

When I said Ms. Lippman brings life to her characters, I didn't mean that I liked all the characters. This is true for Cassandra. I never really connected with her and she would not be a friend of mine. But the fact that I know this to me means she is very real, vibrant, and annoying. :-) The supporting cast of characters including Cassandra's childhood friends were quite interesting.

This book has alot to do with childhood memories or really, memories in general. How real are they? How close to the truth are our memories? Cassandra confronts a variety of memories that she thinks are true but turn out to maybe not be exactly as she remembers. But does that make them less true to her? Or to the other folks with memories of the same event? It made me think about my memories of childhood - how many things do I remember just because of a picture or because someone else told me about it later?

My favorite Laura Lippman books would be the series she has written about private detective Tess Monaghen. Life Sentences is a stand-alone and is not even my favorite of hers among those. The story dragged a little in parts. And, honestly, probably my dislike of Cassandra doesn't help my rating. However this is an interesting book - a look at people with a little whodunit type of mystery thrown in. I do recommend reading it. You might even learn a few new words. If you don't read this one, definitely go find another Laura Lippman book - you won't be disappointed.


Lenore said...

The whole memory aspect fascinates me!

bermudaonion said...

It does sound interesting - too bad part of it drags.

Diane said...

Thanks for the great review. I have this one downloaded to my IPOD.