Watching the news one evening, Cassandra is surprised by the mention of a twenty year old murder case in Baltimore, and even more surprised that the supposed murderer in question is a girl with whom she attended school. Callie Jenkins was a quiet girl who hung on the outskirts of Cassandra's social group, not really a part of things, nor a target of any teen enmity. In her mid-twenties Callie was accused of murdering her infant son. With no body and no signs of a murder, Callie refused to speak at all about the circumstances of her son's disappearance and was jailed for contempt. Her silence has lasted to this day, although she was released from jail after seven years, under special circumstances.
The idea that someone she knew growing up possibly committing such a horrible crime makes Cassandra think about other friends from childhood and what their current situations may be and how they have gotten to those places. Wildly successful for her two memoirs, Cassandra's first novel has not been as well received and she is thinking of returning to her writing origins.
Being back in Baltimore also means dealing with her divorced parents on a regular basis. Her mother is living in a huge house she soon won't be able to keep up, and her father, her childhood hero and respected university professor is now a widower from his second marriage. Cassandra begins to realize that her childhood perspectives about her parents were not accurate as she spends more time with each. In meeting with her childhood friends, Cassandra is confronted with anger, condescension, and fear relating to her first memoir about her childhood. She learns much about friendships: the reasons for their beginning, how they evolve, and that everyone has their own perspective on the same story. It's hard for her to take in some of those truths, both about her friends and her family, but she eventually faces them head on and gains true respect for herself and her place in the world.
Life Sentences is a book that kept me eagerly turning pages, making predictions that often weren't accurate, and thinking about my perspective on my own family's "legends" versus the perspective of others. And here's something else:Life Sentences has just been released in paperback, so it's easier to carry and of course less expensive!
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Official FTC Disclosure: I received no compensation for this review other than a copy of the book from Harper Collins.