Author Cassandra Fallows believes she may have found the story that could become her next bestseller. When she was a girl growing up in a racially diverse middle-class neighborhood in Baltimore, a shy, quiet, unobtrusive child named Calliope Jenkins orbited Cassandra's circle of friends. Later Calliope would be accused of an unspeakable crime and would spend seven years in prison for refusing to speak about it. But 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 devastated not only a family but an entire country.
Laura Lippman is one of those authors I’ve always meant to get around to reading, and so Life Sentences was my first experience with this author. Now to be perfectly honest I think that this particular book may not have been the best one to start with. Although I did end up enjoying this read, it took me some time to really get into the reading flow.
The plot outline really interested me, the main character Cassandra is an author looking to get back into the spotlight. After writing a couple memoirs that did very well, she then tried her hand at fiction with disastrous results. Her idea to regain her place among the bestsellers is to write another memoir, but since she told almost everything in her previous books she needs new material. So she decides to return to her hometown and do some research into a mystery involving a childhood friend, Calliope and her missing child, and the silence that surrounded the case. This description sounded like a total winner.
However the main problem I had was that Cassandra was so incredibly unlikable for me. On her return home she tries to reconnect with old friends in order to gain information for her writing, and when these friends aren’t quite so happy to see her, Cassandra actually appears shocked. She seems to not understand how these women may feel about her having used their lives as parts of her books, and her intentions to pry into their pasts once more.
Aside from my annoyance with Cassandra, I also found myself wanting the pace to be slightly more accelerated. Or rather I would have enjoyed certain aspects to be examined more in depth (particularly the interactions between Cassandra and her group of friends, past and present) while others were less focused (Cassandra’s introspective meanderings).
The mystery element was very enjoyable and kept me reading to discover what had happened and what would come to occur. I was especially keen to discover the secrets surrounding Calliope – how a mother could stay silent so long about the disappearance of her child was fascinating.
The other element of the story that really interested me was the relationship between Cassandra and her father. Having based an entire memoir upon her father, I was completely hooked on the part of the story where Cassandra begins to find that she didn’t have the whole picture when presenting her father.
As much as I didn’t like Cassandra I found that the true strength of this novel was how the author portrayed her as a woman who thought she knew what the truth was, but slowly loses her confidence as she sees how her own mind has created illusions upon her memories. Writing two bestselling memoirs about her life may mean that Cassandra is a talented writer, but she finds out that how she saw things, or remembered things does not necessarily mean that her version is the most reliable. This personal revelation took an unlikable character and explained the flaws which I disliked, I found it refreshing for a character to take a step back and reconsider how things change when the viewpoint or viewer differs.
Other TLC Blog Tour Stops
|Thanks so much to Trish at TLC Book Tours for giving |
me the opportunity to host a stop on this tour!
© 2008-2010 Joanne Mosher of The Book Zombie. All rights reserved.