Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Life Sentences

I've had writer's block since late last week. I'm not sure why, but I'm having trouble sitting down and composing what is on my mind into coherent sentences. It could be because I have an extra busy week and a traveling husband. It could be stress from worrying about my job where there were more layoffs yesterday and more 'cost saving measures' implemented. In any case, I am today, forcing myself to sit down and properly write about something and that something is Laura Lippman's latest novel, Life Sentences.

Cassandra Fallows has written two successful books - memoirs - and one not-so-successful novel. Life has brought her back to her hometown of Baltimore where she hopes to research a more personal story to write about. Cassandra is reminded of the life story of a school acquaintance from years past. Calliope was always a quiet girl but her life became news after her infant son disappeared and she refused to discuss his whereabouts. Cassandra contacts old friends, some of whom are happier to see her than others. You see, Cassandra's books are a touchy subject for some of them, who feel her version of events are not exactly or in same cases, even close to the truth. As Cassandra find herself getting closer to the truth, she discovers things about her friends she wasn't expecting, but more surprising, she discovers things about herself.

This is the first time I've read Lippman's work and apparently she is best known as a writer of mysteries. This is much more of a standard literary novel, despite Cassandra's search for answers. In fact, by the time we discover what really happened with Calliope it's rather anti-climactic. What is more interesting in this book are the themes of self-discovery and of realizing that how one person perceives an event can be completely different that another persons. One point I need to make and am finding it hard to, is that Cassandra's friends from school are all black and she is white. Cassandra doesn't see this as being a big difference, but her friends in some cases do, and they resent that Cassandra has seemed to never quite comprehend their point of view.

The novel was at times difficult to follow, written in third person the reader gets the perspective of many different characters. I found it hard to keep track of who was who at times and had to look back. Interspersed in the book are chapters from Cassandra's memoir, which explained a lot of the back story. I thought this was a good addition to the narrative, though I did wonder why the book (the memoir) would have been such a best seller! Overall, I enjoyed this book and would consider reading Lippman's work again in the future.

Many thanks to Harper Collins/William Morrow for providing this book for review.

Again, I want to thank everyone who stopped by during the read-a-thon! In the coming days or weeks I plan to properly visit all of you and check out all the new-to-me blogs out there.


bermudaonion said...

Hmm, this book sounds like it might be a little confusing. I'll have to make sure I read it when I'm not distracted.

Literary Feline said...

I am so sorry, Tara, that you are weighted down by all those worries. It's such a trying time right now. Things at my company are okay at this moment, but contracts are up this summer and we're expecting major cuts and changes.

I enjoyed the one mystery I've read by Lippman so far. It's one of her series' books. I haven't read anything else by her though although I've been meaning to.

Thanks for the great review!

Lisa said...

I know what you mean about work worries. We have had a round of layoffs here, and luckily, I made it through this one. But, I feel so terrible for those who didn't. It never seems fair. I hope things go well for you at work, and I certainly hope things are going to begin to improve soon. You did much better in the read-a-thon than I did. I had way too many outside distractions -- unexpected visitors, etc.

Ti said...

It's hard to write when your mind is all over the place but I think you did a great job with the review. As you said, sometimes you just need to sit down and get the job done.

This book sort of reminds me of that women with the missing 3 year old.. the one that they just recently found and how the mother didn't come clean about the situation even though she was shrouded in doubt.

I have a hard time reading about the deaths of children. It's such a hard topic to deal with.

Eva said...

I'm sorry about all of your stressors. :( I hope things get calmer soon!

Staci said...

First off I want to let you know that I'm thinking of you during these stressful times!! It is hard when we feel that we have no control over things going on in our lives.

I really enjoyed your review on this book. I've seen this in B&N and had thought of reading it. I still may!

Iliana said...

Ugh, work worries are no fun. Hoping things calm down for you!

I tried to read one of her books a couple of years ago (can't remember which one right now) and I had a hard time keeping track of the characters too so I gave up. She seems to be a very popular author though and her books always seem to get high praise so one of these days I'm going to give her another try.

Tara said...

Bermudaonion, it was definitely a bit confusing! A few too many similar characters.

Literary Feline, thank you. It is such a hard time for everyone, and difficult to wonder every day, is today my last day? It's hard to live like that long-term! I hope everything goes well for you with your job. Perhaps I'll try Lippman's series books since they're what she's known for.

Lisa, It is absolutely not fair and is especially frustrating since it seems the workload is the same, but the poor investment situation is driving a lot of these staff reductions. I had tons of distractions for the read-a-thon but was happy to be able to put in a few good hours.

Ti, thanks so much for your kind words. The child really wasn't a focus of this book, believe it or not...but I know what you mean. My worst nightmare.

Eva, thank you!

Staci, what you said about having no control, that's exactly it. It's hard to look back at one year ago, at how our lives were so different. I'm glad you enjoyed the review!

Iliana, that's interesting about your experience with Lippman! I'll probably try her again, too.