Writer Cassandra Fallows achieved critical and commercial success with an account of her Baltimore childhood growing up in the 1960s and a follow-up dealing with her adult marriages and affairs. The merely modest success of her debut novel leads her back to nonfiction and the possibility of a book about grade school classmate Calliope Jenkins. Accused of murdering her infant son, Jenkins spent seven years in prison steadfastly declining to answer any questions about the disappearance and presumed death of her son. Fallows (white) tries to reconnect with three former classmate friends (black) to compare memories of Jenkins and research her story. In the process, she discovers the gulf (partially racial) that separates her memories of events from theirs. Fallows’s pursuit of Jenkins’s story becomes a rich, complex journey from self-deception to self-discovery.
What really captures my attention in Lippman’s books is that most of them are based on true stories. This particular one is in reference to the disappearance of a Baltimore woman’s son. The woman chose not to make a statement and in doing so spent seven years in jail for contempt of court.
I of course enjoyed the storyline of the main character Cassandra as she was an author. Bookish characters always fascinate me and automatically seem to have an “in” with me. I liked the idea that Cassandra wanted to write about a childhood
friend acquaintance and was doing research to find out about Callie’s reason for going to jail rather than answer questions about her son.
What ensues seems to me like a long drawn out maze of happenings as Cassandra visits old friends and finds out that if they even know she is a writer, they are so not impressed. Somewhere along all of this I lost touch with the book and waited anxiously to see where it was all going and when would it get there. In the end, I just didn’t like Cassandra very much.
I have read and enjoyed Laura Lippman before and know that many things could have contributed to my eventual lack of interest in this one, including the fact that I listened to it in my car on audio. While I am a huge advocate for audio, I am well aware that at times audio is not the way to go as you can miss key points in a story that if reading, I would have back tracked through the pages to figure out what I missed.
I have heard wonderful things about Laura’s book, ‘What The Dead Know’ so I believe that will be my next Lippman adventure!
Book Journey’s 2010 reading map has been updated to include Life Sentences
Cover Story: Hmmmm….. I guess I am not fond of it and do not see where it captures the heart of the story
I borrowed this audio from my local library
10 thoughts on “Life Sentences by Laura Lippman (audio review)”
I enjoyed Life Sentences, but then again, I read it. I am not a fan of audio, but I know you usually enjoy it.
I’m not sure why the visual experience is so important to me, but it may have made a difference for you in this case.
You may be right Laurel, I am not sure at what point I started struggling with it. This may require a “do over” with the book.
Sheila, I also listened to the audio (earlier this year I believe) and thought it was good as well. Great review. I still remember the Cassandra character 🙂
I like Lippman, and this one started out good,…. ahh well, another time 😀
I agree, Cassandra’s definitely not very likable.
Oh thank you Hannah – I thought I was in the minority on this one…. 🙂
I’ve always kind of felt like Lippman gets a little too far off the trail sometimes, makes it hard for the reader to follow along. I like to think that I can look back and see how things led to the point their at by the end.
I can see what you mean in this one Lisa but did not notice that in the previous one I read on hers…. I have noticed lately however in several books or audios I have listened to that the authors have filled up the story with what I would refer to as “additional words”… like they over describe something. To me it seems like they are trying to make the book longer. 😀
I like this 😀
Me too 🙂