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Author Cassandra Fallows has achieved remarkable success by baring her life on the page. Her two widely popular memoirs continue to sell briskly, acclaimed for their brutal, unexpurgated candor about friends, family, lovers—and herself. But now, after a singularly unsuccessful stab at fiction, Cassandra believes she may have found the story that will enable her triumphant return to nonfiction.

When Cassandra was a girl, growing up in a racially diverse middle-class neighborhood in Baltimore, her best friends were all black: elegant, privileged Donna; sharp, shrewd Tisha; wild and worldly Fatima. A fifth girl orbited their world—a shy, quiet, unobtrusive child named Calliope Jenkins—who, years later, would be accused of killing her infant son. Yet the boy's body was never found and Calliope's unrelenting silence on the subject forced a judge to jail her for contempt. For seven years, Calliope refused to speak and the court was finally forced to let her go. Cassandra believes this still unsolved real-life mystery, largely unknown outside Baltimore, could be her next bestseller.

But her homecoming and latest journey into the past will not be welcomed by everyone, especially by her former friends, who are unimpressed with Cassandra's success—and are insistent on their own version of their shared history. And by delving too deeply into Calliope's dark secrets, Cassandra may inadvertently unearth a few of her own—forcing her to reexamine the memories she holds most precious, as the stark light of truth illuminates a mother's pain, a father's betrayal . . . and what really transpired on a terrible day that changed not only a family but an entire country.

Topics: Friendship, Writing, Race Relations, Secrets, Childhood, Suspenseful, and Baltimore

Published: HarperCollins on Oct 6, 2009
ISBN: 9780061971365
List price: $7.99
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view all 4 status updates review: Some people look forward to the budding trees and warmer days when winter finally rolls around into spring. I look forward to the latest offering by Laura Lippman. As always with Lippman's novels, I found myself both eager to begin the journey and anxious that the ride would be over far too soon. The best thing you can say about a book is that it never feels too short nor does it overstay its welcome. And that's a praise I can heap on a lot of Lippman's novels. Cassa...more Some people look forward to the budding trees and warmer days when winter finally rolls around into spring. I look forward to the latest offering by Laura Lippman. As always with Lippman's novels, I found myself both eager to begin the journey and anxious that the ride would be over far too soon. The best thing you can say about a book is that it never feels too short nor does it overstay its welcome. And that's a praise I can heap on a lot of Lippman's novels. Cassandra Fellows is a successful non-fiction writer, who wrote two staggeringly successful memoirs about her life. One was about growing up in Baltimore and the other was about her various romantic liasons. Now Cassandra is on a book tour for his latest, fictional entry which is neither as critically acclaimed nor as commercially successful as her two autobiographical tomes. One night in a hotel room, cursed with insomnia, Cassandra hears the report of a missing boy in Louisiana and hears it linked to a case in Baltimore years before. The case involved a classmate of Cassandra's, Calliope Jenkins, whose first child was removed from the home by the authorities and her second child disappeared under mysterious circumstances. Calliope never confessed to a crime and was notoriously silent about where the child went. With little evidence, Calliope was held in jail for seven years before being released. Cassandra grew up with Calliope and decides that her next project will be an examination of not only Calliope, but their social group growing up, looking to find some answers to the unsolved crime. In typical Lippman fashion, the central mystery to the novel is important but it isn't the most vital part of "Life Sentences." Lippman once again examines the impact of a crime or a criminal act can have on the various lives that it touches--from that of Calliope Jenkins to Cassandra to the various people investigating the case or defending Jenkins. Lippman hooks you in right away with the central mystery and with great care and deliberation introduces the various players into the drama. Each character is facing his or her own life sentence based on choices he or she has made over the course of their lives. Lippman also examines how the various characters filter history through their own vantage point and how subjective events and memories can be. To say more would be to give away some of the more intriguing revelations in the story. And that last thing you want is for someone to ruin the joy of finding these things out for yourself. I've heard it said that Lippman writes mysteries that transcend the genre. I'd argue that while she does that, her novels are far more complex and rewarding than just a simple "who done it?" story. These are carefully crafted, psychological portraits of the impact of various events can have on the its characters. "Life Sentences" is another winner from Lippman and a novel I heartly recommend to anyone who enjoys a well-written, thought-provoking and enjoyable storyread more
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
Like other books by Laura Lippman, Life Sentences is a "psychological thriller". But this book is far more "psychological" than "thriller", and I didn't enjoy it nearly as much. The plot sounds interesting: an author's childhood friends was jailed for 7 years for contempt of court, for refusing to reveal information about her missing childhood son. But it was actually a pretty slow, tame story. The "psychological" aspect is far stronger, with themes of differing perspectives, flawed memories, and racial influences. All in all, it was an okay read, but not one I'd recommend strongly.read more
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
Like some of the other reviewers, I found this book a bit tedious. It did not hold my interest and perhaps my expectations of a thriller were too high. Still , Ms Lippman is a very good writer and perhaps I will try "What the Dead know" .read more
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
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view all 4 status updates review: Some people look forward to the budding trees and warmer days when winter finally rolls around into spring. I look forward to the latest offering by Laura Lippman. As always with Lippman's novels, I found myself both eager to begin the journey and anxious that the ride would be over far too soon. The best thing you can say about a book is that it never feels too short nor does it overstay its welcome. And that's a praise I can heap on a lot of Lippman's novels. Cassa...more Some people look forward to the budding trees and warmer days when winter finally rolls around into spring. I look forward to the latest offering by Laura Lippman. As always with Lippman's novels, I found myself both eager to begin the journey and anxious that the ride would be over far too soon. The best thing you can say about a book is that it never feels too short nor does it overstay its welcome. And that's a praise I can heap on a lot of Lippman's novels. Cassandra Fellows is a successful non-fiction writer, who wrote two staggeringly successful memoirs about her life. One was about growing up in Baltimore and the other was about her various romantic liasons. Now Cassandra is on a book tour for his latest, fictional entry which is neither as critically acclaimed nor as commercially successful as her two autobiographical tomes. One night in a hotel room, cursed with insomnia, Cassandra hears the report of a missing boy in Louisiana and hears it linked to a case in Baltimore years before. The case involved a classmate of Cassandra's, Calliope Jenkins, whose first child was removed from the home by the authorities and her second child disappeared under mysterious circumstances. Calliope never confessed to a crime and was notoriously silent about where the child went. With little evidence, Calliope was held in jail for seven years before being released. Cassandra grew up with Calliope and decides that her next project will be an examination of not only Calliope, but their social group growing up, looking to find some answers to the unsolved crime. In typical Lippman fashion, the central mystery to the novel is important but it isn't the most vital part of "Life Sentences." Lippman once again examines the impact of a crime or a criminal act can have on the various lives that it touches--from that of Calliope Jenkins to Cassandra to the various people investigating the case or defending Jenkins. Lippman hooks you in right away with the central mystery and with great care and deliberation introduces the various players into the drama. Each character is facing his or her own life sentence based on choices he or she has made over the course of their lives. Lippman also examines how the various characters filter history through their own vantage point and how subjective events and memories can be. To say more would be to give away some of the more intriguing revelations in the story. And that last thing you want is for someone to ruin the joy of finding these things out for yourself. I've heard it said that Lippman writes mysteries that transcend the genre. I'd argue that while she does that, her novels are far more complex and rewarding than just a simple "who done it?" story. These are carefully crafted, psychological portraits of the impact of various events can have on the its characters. "Life Sentences" is another winner from Lippman and a novel I heartly recommend to anyone who enjoys a well-written, thought-provoking and enjoyable story
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
Like other books by Laura Lippman, Life Sentences is a "psychological thriller". But this book is far more "psychological" than "thriller", and I didn't enjoy it nearly as much. The plot sounds interesting: an author's childhood friends was jailed for 7 years for contempt of court, for refusing to reveal information about her missing childhood son. But it was actually a pretty slow, tame story. The "psychological" aspect is far stronger, with themes of differing perspectives, flawed memories, and racial influences. All in all, it was an okay read, but not one I'd recommend strongly.
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
Like some of the other reviewers, I found this book a bit tedious. It did not hold my interest and perhaps my expectations of a thriller were too high. Still , Ms Lippman is a very good writer and perhaps I will try "What the Dead know" .
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
I had read several favorable reviews in national publications and thought this would be one I couldn't put down. As it turns out, I could, I thought the book was pretty average in terms of plot and writing. The main character is looking back at her childhood through much of the book and I found her ability to remember so many events and conversations from childhood unlikely. It's not a bad read but not one I would recommend to people who have lots in their TBR stack.
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
I read this book in the hopes that it could be a contender for the 2010 One Maryland One Book which will focus on community. Maryland authors would be favored if the book is appropriate. Unfortunately, I was disappointed. I felt Laura Lippman was trying to extend herself beyond her more typical, mysteries featuring Tess in Baltimore, but somehow the writing style did not impress me and I was not drawn in by the characters. That said, I did want to finish the book to find out what happened, so the plot was sufficient.
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A memoirist with writer's block decides to write a non-fiction
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