Monday, March 08, 2010

Life Sentences by Laura Lippman

I "discovered" Laura Lippman about 2 years ago when I was looking for a book by Elinor Lipman (Also a great writer with a different style from Laura.). That little spelling error brought me into the world of Tess Monaghan, former Baltimore police officer turned PI. I quickly gobbled up all the Tess Monaghan books and then dug into Ms. Lippman's stand-alone novels. Her latest, Life Sentences also takes place in Baltimore, where famed author Cassandra Fallows returns to her childhood home in hopes of researching a potential new book.
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.
In researching Callie's case, Cassandra finds no one will talk to her. Neither of Callie's two lawyers, the prosecutor, or the police officer who arrested her. And Cassandra's childhood friends are just as closed-mouthed. Cassandra begins to realize that this is much more than a mother possibly killing a baby. How are all of these people connected? Are people being bribed or threatened? Who wouldn't want Callie's actual story to be known? And where is Callie living anyway? Everyone claims not to know.
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.
Part mystery, part soul-searching journey, 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!
Check out all the stops on Laura's TLC Book Tour and see what other people are saying about Life Sentences.
Official FTC Disclosure: I received no compensation for this review other than a copy of the book from Harper Collins.



Vodka Logic said...

Sounds like a good book . thanks

Charlene said...

I love these little "happy accidents." I've been looking for something new to read... so thanks!

Bossy Betty said...

Oh no! Another book to add to my list! I need to take a day (week?) off from work just to catch up! Thanks for this suggestion!

Pam said...

OMG! I was confusing Elinor and Laura Lipman too. Until right now! This book has been on my tbr list for quite awhile. I actually started it as an audio book, but decided audio is not for me. Somehow that ruined the book for me. I need to give it another chance. Especially since I now realize Laura Lipman is NOT Elinor Lipman. Oops!

trish said...

Wow! So which was your favorite in the Tess Monaghan series. Do you remember?

I love this: "...thinking about my perspective on my own family's "legends" versus the perspective of others." Memory is a very interesting thing. There was a study done, and when people see something happen, when questioned shortly thereafter, oftentimes people will have completely different opinions about what happened. Makes you wonder about your own memories, huh? :)

Thanks for being on this tour!