April 6, 2009

Review: Life Sentences by Laura Lippman



With two highly successful memoirs under her belt author Cassandra Fallows latest work of fiction falls flat. Knowing that there is nothing else in her life to write about she is left contemplating her next step as a writer when she hears a news story that she believes could be the subject of her next non-fiction bestseller.

In New Orleans a child has disappeared and his mother refuses to tell anyone what happened to him. The news story compares this case to a case in Baltimore where Calliope Jenkins once spent seven years in prison for failing to reveal what happened to her missing infant son. As it turns out Cassandra and Callie where once friends beginning when they met elementary school along with a group of girls including Donna, Tisha and Fatima.

Returning home to Baltimore to investigate the story Cassandra faces resentment and bitterness from Tisha, Donna and Fatima each for a different reason but all of it having to do with her first successful memoir and Cassandra’s recounting of their experiences. Finding Callie and learning the truth about what happened all those years ago is a lot tougher than she originally thought but she’s determined to make it happen.

I was hoping for more of a mystery read similar to What the Dead Know but Life Sentences is more a book about relationships and dealing with memories than it is a suspense story. It takes a long look at family interactions, racial issues, friendship bonds and how each are dealt with by different characters in the story.

I enjoyed the book overall but was a little disappointed by the ending. The book was about 2/3 complete before Callie’s story starts to be told and by the time the truth about her missing son is revealed it’s more of a let down than a satisfying ending. I recommend it more for general fiction readers than suspense lovers.

5 comments :

Kaye said...

Hi Monie, I too was disappointed in this book. I think I was expecting a lot more of a mystery story. It felt like the first 200 pages I kept waiting for something more to "happen". I was underwhelmed to say the least.

bermudaonion said...

I'm sorry to hear this one isn't living up to expectations.

Liz said...

I sometimes confuse my authors -- Lippman does the Tess series, right? I was looking forward to this one... I'm reading a Maisie Dobbs mystery right now. It's my first one, I just plucked one off the shelf and am really enjoying it. And for a complete change of pace, I just finished a really powerful memoir about live with mental illness, "bipolar bare" (no capital letters in the title). It details the author's struggle with his bipolar disorder, as well as his struggle to come to terms with it, including sexual deviations and drug use. (Those are particular to bipolar disorder -- a lot of people don't know that.) This was riveting -- it should be made into a movie. It was that good. Like I said, a change of pace for many of us (me included!) But well worth the time.

MonieG said...

Kaye: I'm glad I'm not the only one. There were seven 5 star reviews on Amazon when I posted my 3 star review.

Liz: She does write the Tess series. I haven't read those but they seem to be highly recommended.

I haven't had good experiences with reading and enjoying memoirs. I think the reasoning is that I can't identify with the characters in anyway so I loose interest. Maybe something will come along that strikes a chord and allow me to enjoy it.

J. Kaye said...

Yep, heard the same thing from others who read "What the Dead Know" and that's why I am passing on this one. Bummer!