Thursday, March 18, 2010

Life Sentences by Laura Lippman

Cassandra Fallows, a successful author, is casting about for a new project.  She has written two well-received memoirs about her childhood and her two marriages, and then a novel that was panned by the critics.  At loose ends, she hears a story about a woman in New Orleans whose baby is missing and the police have been unsuccessful in either finding the child or convincing the mother to cooperate.  A sad enough story, but the next words make Cassandra sit up and take notice.  The announcer refers the story back to a similiar one that occurred in Baltimore years before.  That mother, Calliope Jenkins, had reported a child missing and spent seven years in prison rather than telling anyone what happened.

Cassandra is entranced.  She had grown up in Baltimore and in fact, knew Calliope or Callie, as they called her, as a childhood schoolmate.  Cassandra had been one of the few white children at a local school and had become part of a group of girls, all of whom were African-American.  Cassandra had been grateful to be in their group.  There was Donna, the child of a prominent and politically successful family.  Trisha was the go-getter and leader who kept the group together.  Fatima was from a poorer family, but blossomed sexually long before the others.  Then there was Calliope, whom the group nicknamed Callie, and who hung arond the edges of their group, but rarely spoke or participated.  She was an enigma to those surrounding her even then.

Cassandra was the child of an English professor and a stay at home mom.  Her father had walked out on her mother and her when he met another woman that he claimed was the love of his life. As the girls grew up, they went to different high schools and lost touch. 

Cassandra is determined to go back to Baltimore and use this story as her next book.  She will write about these childhood friendships and tell what really happened to Callie's baby.  When she gets there, however, she quickly finds it will not be an easy job.  No one is eager to talk to her or renew old friendships.  She is rebuffed by all the other girls in the group, all of whom insist they have no idea where to find Callie and let Cassandra know that they wouldn't help her if they could as they don't want to be the focus of a book.

Cassandra presses on.  Can she find the truth that has been hidden for more than twenty years?  As she pushes foward, she discovers that everyone involved has secrets, including some hard truths about her own childhood that she hasn't faced or known before.

Laura Lippman has written an intriguing book.  The characters are portrayed deftly, and remind us of how difficult it is to renew old friendships when life has moved us on to different pathways as adults.  The plot twists and turns and pulls the reader in quickly.  This book is recommended for all readers.


Brooke from The Bluestocking Guide said...

Sounds good.

trish said...

It's interesting that people can experience the same thing but remember it differently. I'm glad you liked this book! I can't wait to get to it. :)

Thanks for being on this tour!

StephTheBookworm said...

I've added this to my TBR list.

Bookfool said...

I was just wondering if this book was any good -- saw it prominently displayed at Border's, today. Great review, thanks!