Sunday, August 30, 2015

Cartwheel by Jennifer duBois

Life is opening up for Lily Hayes.   She is twenty-one and headed to Buenos Aires for a college study abroad program.  Lily is instantly entranced by the city; it's food, it's history and people, it's culture.  She's not fond of her roommate, Katy, who Lily finds boring and a stick-in-the-mud.  But Lily soon has a boyfriend, Sebastian, and things are great.

Great until the night it all happens.  Katy is found dead in their room, stabbed repeatedly.  Lily says she was next door with Sebastian when it happened and he agrees but as the police investigate, her story doesn't seem likely.  Then it happens.  While waiting at the police station between interrogations, Lily, who has been left in a room alone, does a cartwheel.  An everyday, routine cartwheel.  A cartwheel that is taped and released to a worldwide audience who instantly condemns Lily in the court of public opinion for doing such a lighthearted stunt in such a serious situation.

Lily is arrested and jailed.  Her parents, professors in the United States, take turns coming to Buenos Aires and visiting her.  They don't believe Lily did such a brutal murder but as the weeks go by, doubt begins to creep in.  What really happened that night?  Did they unwittingly raise a monster?

The novel clearly takes the Amanda Knox murder trial in Italy as its starting point but duBois delves deep into all players lives.  Was Lily the superficial, self-absorbed young adult she appears to be?  What is Sebastian's role in the case?   There are rumors he had romantic ties to both the girls. How is the investigating prosecutor's view of the crime affected by his own struggling marriage?   How is a parent to come to terms with the possibility that they may have raised a monster?  As the book progresses, the reader is forced to confront the moral dilemmas outlined and come to a personal decision about each of them.  This book is recommended for readers of literary fiction.

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