Other Pages of Interest

Monday, May 17, 2010

Life Sentences - Laura Lippman

Life Sentences is my first Laura Lippman book and I thoroughly enjoyed it. The core of Lippman's novel is inspired by the true story of a Baltimore woman who spent seven years in jail after she refused to speak about her infant son's mysterious disappearance. In the book, the main character, Cassandra, is an accomplished author who made a name for herself by writing two tell-all books about her life growing up in the 1960s and the rise and fall of her first marriage. In search of her next topic, Cassandra decides to take a closer look at the life of a former classmate, Calliope Jenkins, the mother who stayed silent regarding the whereabouts of her son. Cassandra and Calliope were not particularly close in school so Cassandra looks to other former schoolmates for help, and encounters a number of complications along the way. I really enjoyed the way this book unfolds, the present day story is told through the eyes of a few of the main characters and Lippman fills in the back stories by using excerpts from Cassandra's novels. The novel explores the complicated relationships that children have with their parents, the strained ties of friendship from childhood friends that grow apart and finds time to weave in the impact of the civil rights movement of the 1960s that tie all of the characters together. Life Sentences is an ode to a little girl's blind belief in her father, a brilliant college professor that expects nothing but perfection from his child, and the effect those beliefs have on her as an adult. I feel like Lippman cleverly inserts a double meaning into the title by having a running dialogue in Cassandra's head describing how her father would correct her writing and also having each character trapped in a situation that results from a decision they made at some point in their lives, their own personal life sentence. I thought the book was interesting, compelling and clever. I will be reading more of Laura Lippman in the future.

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