Top critical review
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Read another of her books because this is a disappointment
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.