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Showing 1-10 of 27 reviews(Verified Purchases). See all 72 reviews
on December 31, 2012
Goodreads Description- 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.

A woman's child disappears and she spends seven years in jail for contempt of court refusing to disclose his whereabouts. Cassandra Fellows, a writer who was her childhood friend, decides to write her next book on the subject, but no one is happy about it especially her 3 other close childhood friends, Tisha, Fatima, and Donna.

I am a fan of Laura Lippman, especially her Tess Monahan series. She is a good writer and her themes usually revolve around the fact that secrets are dangerous and often unable to be kept. When I started reading this book, I realized that at some point I had started it and stopped and this second reading reminds me why I did this. The main character, Cassandra, comes from a broken home of the 60's. Her father is a professor and thinks very highly of himself. Her mother takes a backstage position and I felt sorry for her in that Cassandra's attentions and affections seem to be aimed more toward her father who was responsible for the break up of their family when he falls in love with an African American woman in a time when this was not acceptable to the mainstream. Cassandra has written 2 previous memoirs about her life, one about her father and the other about the break ups of her own 2 marriages. She is very proud to write about all of the infidelity both she and her father have partaken in and she comes off as very unlikeable. There are also so many literary references that it got so old for me that I found myself skimming large parts of the book when Cassandra goes on and on about her father's diatribes about society, food, and his infidelity.

Cassandra now wants to write a book about a childhood friend who spent 7 years in prison for invoking her 5th Amendment right to not incriminate herself in the death of her baby boy. Cassandra wants to somehow write about what happened to Callie, the women who was in prison, in the frame of how she grew up with 4 African American friends and how they all turned out even though their upbringing was somewhat the same. Cassandra wants to think that she is high minded enough to realize how her friends felt in the backdrop of Martin Luther King's assignation. However, in setting up Cassandra with this personality, Lippman has created a very unlikeable character. She pretty much drove me nuts the entire time.

Even though I didn't like the character, Lippman's writing seems less tight in this book than it is in her other works. The characters aren't fleshed out and there were a few characters who appeared with no apparent reason for being there. Much of the backgrounds of the minor characters was completely ignored, especially Teenie, the original cop Cassie's case who was injured in the line of duty and is now an alcoholic. I would have liked to know what transpired to her to make her into the person she is today but Lippman provides the basic details of what happened but doesn't go into the background of why she was so affected by Callie's case.

All in all this book had a lot of loose ends and details that were ignored. The characters are much different than her mystery series and are very "high minded". I have to say that I am being very generous with giving this book 2 stars but I will still continue to read her Tess series and her other stand alones. If you haven't read any of Lippman's work, I would not start with this book. Her book What the Dead Know is a great stand alone and I would highly recommend it and her Tess Monahan series. This wasn't my style and definitely deviated from what Lippman usually writes about and her usual writing style. 2 stars. Read another one of her books instead.
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on January 23, 2011
This is not one of Laura Lippmann's best books. Having said that, the story is unpredictable enough to keep you turning the pages right until the dénouement. Ms. Lippmann has a credible writing style, and a refreshing honesty in creating characters that are flawed and believable - sometimes even unlikeable - and yet retain the reader's interest in them enough to root for them through to the end of the story. Central character Cassandra Fellows is certainly flawed, yet I found myself liking her in spite of her ambiguous morals and somewhat self-centred personality. The supporting cast - Fatima, Trisha, Donna, and Calliope - are fleshed out enough for the reader to understand them, and more importantly, their motivation in wanting to keep the past in the past.

This was a book I had a hard time putting down in spite of the slow start and somewhat anticlimactic ending, and ultimately, I would recommend it. But perhaps read it before reading "I'd Know You Anywhere" or "What The Dead Know", or you'll be wondering if Ms. Lippmann phoned this one in.
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on August 29, 2017
On time, as expected.
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on January 1, 2011
I love Laura Lippman. I love the gritty, strong female characters she creates. I love the fallible, human people that appear in her stories. I love her tight plotting. And I love Lippman's Baltimore, which is a character in and of itself in these novels. But when I read "Life Sentences," I was thinking, "WHERE IS LAURA LIPPMAN?" This book just drags on and on. It's a character-driven novel, not a plot driven one, but the characters are thin and uninteresting. I never felt like I knew Cassandra Fallows in any meaningful way, and her grade school friends were even flatter. The whole novel felt gray, tired and sort of exhausted with itself. And the final revelation didn't spice things up any.
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VINE VOICEon May 14, 2009
Lippman's previous books packed more punch. The characters were better defined and their actions made sense. In this novel, Cassandra, met success as a writer of memoirs about her child and adulthood. Cassandra, a white girl, grew up in a racially diverse area of Baltimore and she surrounded herself with black friends who appeared to be dynamic but troubled. It appears she foisted herself on this cast of characters: Tisha, smart, grounded but wary, Donna, rich and elegant who appeared to manipulate lives, Fatima who loved risks as a child but did an about face as adult and Calliope, who was convicted for contempt.

She returns to Baltimore to unravel Calliope's mysterious past and find her own future - a bit corny. It is difficult to determine whether Cassandra has stretched the truth or totally misjudged her black friends, her sacrificial mother and her selfish father who is not what he appears. Cassandra is driven and she is bound and determined to discover the secrets of her old friends and parents.

Lippman's plot became confusing and lacked a resolution. For a smart girl, Cassandra seemed lacking in reality. When the truth surfaced, it was cloudy and ambiguous. I enjoyed Lippman's other books much more.
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on August 19, 2016
Loved the other Lippman books I've read but this one was tedious.
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on February 3, 2013
I have read nearly all of Laura Lippman's books, including her Tess Monaghan series, which I so enjoy. Life Sentences is a totally different type of novel, however. Aside from the references to places in Baltimore, where I grew up, but haven't lived for more than 30 years, I'm not sure I would have known Lippman wrote Life Sentences. I did thoroughly enjoy it, however, and would recommend it to anyone who is a Laura Lippman fan.
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on August 30, 2015
Not Lippman's usual detective novel. Strange story of young lives separated, still involved in a complex, barely plausible web of deceit. Finally satisfying, but sometimes hard to go through.
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on July 5, 2015
I have read most of Laura Lippman's books and find them both fun and with a real twist . This one was repetitive and predictable. It felt like she had an idea but couldn't make much of it.
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on March 30, 2014
I was very disappointed by this book. The plot concept was excellent, however the execution was poor. The voice of the novel often goes from first person to third person which makes it very confusing for the reader. Several loose ends were left and the ending left me completely puzzled.
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