2010. 100. Life Sentences

“‘Well,’ the bookstore manager said, ‘it is Valentine’s Day.’”

Life Sentences, Laura Lippman

I have read a few Lippman novels (In A Strange City, To The Power of Three, What the Dead Know, and Every Secret Thing) have loved one, and liked the rest, and generally fall into the “like her enough to pick them up at the library/used book store, but not enough to buy new” category.*  This novel is extremely well written and interesting and I was really into it, but when I was finished I thought something was lacking, which I guess puts it basically with all the others I’ve read.  It’s about Cassandra Fallows, who has written two well-received memoirs, and one flop of a novel.  Regathering herself, she looks back into her past, growing up in an integrated Baltimore school.  She finds out that one of the girls who was her friend (albeit peripherally) went to prison for the death of her child - but never spoke a word about the crime to everyone.  Planning on using her connection to the murder as an opening point for a memoir about growing up in Baltimore and about race in America, Cassie delves into the crime, but soon finds out that she doesn’t know as much as she thinks she does about the girls she grew up with or the world she grew up in.  I very much liked the characters, and the way they questioned Cassie - including her right to write about them at all. I respected the fact that Lippman made Cassie imperfect without making her totally unsympathetic.  I liked the way the central mystery unfolded, arriving at a solution but not in a Hercule Poirot “let’s all sit around in a circle and I will explain to you what happened” sort of way.  What I didn’t like is that there were threads to the story that just seemed to sort of hang there, unended and unanswered.  And not in a “well, life never gives you all the answers sort of way” but in a “are there chapters missing from my copy sort of way.”**  Still, if you can live with not understanding everything at the end, it’s a pretty good read.

*Unlike Rendell, though, I tend to prefer her stand-alones to her detective series, though on re-review of my blog I guess I’ve only read one of her detective series books, so maybe I should hold my opinion until I know more.

** Like, SPOILER, are we supposed to think that Donna somehow stole Calliope’s first child?  

Categories: Fiction

© Carrie Dunsmore 2017