William Morrow & Company, Hardcover, 9780061128899, 344pp.
Publication Date: March 10, 2009
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.
Lippman has enriched literature as a whole.
Life Sentences is an original and intricately woven whydunnit, with characters as real as the Baltimore streets they live on.With Laura Lippman’s unique storytelling and love of the genre, mystery awards will surely keep pouring in.
-Madison County Herald, Mississippi
“Lippman knows exactly what she’s doing.”
“Lippman, a Baltimore native, skillfully brings the racial and economic tensions of her middle-class neighborhood to life in this poignant page-turner.”
“Theirs is a strong and vivid story, one that will intrigue many readers—especially, I suspect, women who find echoes of their own lives and friendships in this drama.”
“Succeeds brilliantly... Lippman is in total command of her material, weaving strands about race, family myths and self-deception into a mystery so taut the reader is nearly afraid to keep going—and simultaneously powerless to stop.