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Life Sentences

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3.14 of 5 stars 3.14  ·  rating details  ·  3,336 ratings  ·  550 reviews
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 ...more
Hardcover, 352 pages
Published March 10th 2009 by William Morrow (first published January 1st 2009)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Michael
Some people look forward to the budding trees and warmer days when winter finally rolls around into spring. I look forward to the latest offering by Laura Lippman.

As always with Lippman's novels, I found myself both eager to begin the journey and anxious that the ride would be over far too soon. The best thing you can say about a book is that it never feels too short nor does it overstay its welcome. And that's a praise I can heap on a lot of Lippman's novels.

Cassandra Fellows is a successful n
...more
Laura
This book is AWFUL. I'm one of those people who doesn't finish a book if it doesn't deliver (I've read the first few chapters of a hundred books that weren't worth finishing) - but I kept reading this one, hoping my initial impressions were off. Hoping the book warranted more of my time. There was such a good review in one of my magazines that I kept thinking the book would get better.

But the characters are difficult to relate to, some are too stereotypical, some are too depressing... the story
...more
Britany
Cassandra Fallows, a well-known memoirist, fails to generate interest in her latest book- trying her hand at fiction doesn't seem to go over well with the public. She decides to head back to Baltimore to uncover what happened to Calliope Jenkins- a fellow classmate who spent seven years in prison for the death of her infant son. Although, Calliope never spoke throughout her trial and investigation, Cassandra thinks she can uncover what really happened.

While this story could've been a real myster
...more
Laren
A woman's child disappears and she spends seven years in jail for contempt of court refusing to disclose his whereabouts. A writer who was her childhood friend decides to write her next book on the subject, but no one is happy about it.

I haven't read a lot by this author, but it seems her mysteries are primarily about how secrets don't stay kept forever, and her writing is more literary than suspenseful (especially since the answers aren't findable by the reader via clues in the story). In this
...more
Kelly
I came to Life Sentences having read one other Laura Lippman book, What the Dead Know, and having loved the latter. They're both standalones but take place in the same universe; there are some recurring secondary characters (namely, police officers).

Life Sentences has moments of one of the things I really loved about What the Dead Know--Lippman's knack for calling up all sorts of random details about childhood and adolescence and evoking the odd ways our brains sometimes worked when we were kids
...more
Barry
Sometimes the whole is more than the sum of its parts. In this case, we have meaty parts that add up to a less substantive whole. There are many things to admire in Laura Lippman’s latest book, Life Sentences, and reader should enjoy the sedate pace in order to drink in the nuances and shadings of her characters.

The many savoury bits are offset by stretches of monotony. The narrator, Cassandra Fallows, has published two successful tell-all memoirs and then disappointed with first attempt at fict
...more
stephanie
fascinating. absolutely loved it. tackles the problems of writing memoirs with a mystery and oh, just all around brilliant. social commentary, modern day baltimore, and while i wasn't a fan of cassandra, as usual, lippman's secondary characters stole the show and won my heart with ease.

this deserves a longer, more thoughtful review that is forthcoming, but i just needed to take note that i read it and finished before i forgot to log it.
Kayeb
Compelling enough I would forget it was a novel...there was a sense that the author in the book was the author writing this book. Cassandra's interpretations of her life and the course her life takes in this segment of her life are perceptive and enjoyable.

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 no
...more
Gina
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 neighbo
...more
Rebecca
Usually I can forgive a book bad writing if it's got good characters. But now I have found that the opposite is not true; I cannot forgive bad characters even for good writing. The writing was very good, for the most part. And the constant POV switching actually bothered me less here than it usually does, because it relieved me from having to deal with Cassandra, who would have benefitted greatly from a once-a-scene bitch slap. I didn't really like any of the characters all that much, but I didn ...more
Laura de Leon
To me, Life Sentences was a strong 4 star book bogged down by trappings that didn't work for me.

I really liked that plot and the main character.

The mystery was interesting and (mostly) well plotted and revealed. The question is whether Cassandra's childhood friend Calliope really killed her child, and if so, why?

I've read several books recently featuring writers as characters, and I've been enjoying them. Cassandra is no exception. I enjoyed her reflections on her past, present and future and h
...more
Jennifer

I picked up Life Sentences, because I was in the mood for a literary thriller. This book involves a memoir writer, Cassandra, who decides that she is going to tell the story of her childhood friends, one of whom went to jail for killing her infant son (though she never admitted the crime, and no body was ever found). The question seemed to be, "What really happened to the baby?" But, ultimately, the "mystery" at the center of Life Sentences was not the author's point, because there was certainly
...more
Sherry
I really did not like this book. It was boring and I only finished it because it was an audio book. I have read and enjoyed Laura Lippman books. I had no empathy for the main character. Neither the story nor the main character drew me in to care.
Kelly Hager
This is another of her standalones, and it's very good but hard to discuss without bringing in spoilers.

Here's the bare bones: Cassandra Fallowes is an author. She's written two wildly successful memoirs and one novel that was received less than warmly by the public. She heads back to Baltimore to start memoir #3, which will be about the girls she was friends with growing up and another of their classmates (who was kind of on the fringe of their group) who is at the center of a mystery. The woma
...more
Laurel-Rain
The role of memory and perspective shape this tale of a writer – Cassandra Fallows is known for her memoirs about her childhood experiences – with details called into question by some of the other characters about whom she wrote. Cassandra was the white girl with several elegant and privileged black friends – Tisha, Donna and Fatima. Their memories of events were quite different from her perspective on things. When she reconnects with them many years later, in order to put together the details o ...more
Maddy
PROTAGONIST: Cassandra Fallows, author
SETTING: Baltimore
SERIES: Standalone
RATING: 2.5

Laura Lippman is one of the most recognized and acknowledged authors of crime fiction in the US. She's won every imaginable award, including a clean sweep of the major categories at Bouchercon 2008. Both her Tess Monaghan series and her standalone works have been lauded. So it's probably understandable, although unexpected, when she writes something that is not of the highest caliber.

Life Sentences is a book tha
...more
Rhonda
Author Cassandra Fallows' nonfiction work received critical acclaim and was best-sellers. Her venture into novels did okay, but not near the level of her memoirs of growing up in Baltimore in the turbulent 1960s or her revelations into her relationships; two failed marriages and a zillion affairs.

She considers writing a biography of her elementary school colleague notorious African-American Calliope Jenkins who two decades ago was accused of murdering her infant son. Jenkins has not answered on
...more
Monie
With two highly successful memoirs under her belt author Cassandra Fallows latest work of fiction falls flat. Knowing that there is nothing else in her life to write about she is left contemplating her next step as a writer when she hears a news story that she believes could be the subject of her next non-fiction bestseller.

In New Orleans a child has disappeared and his mother refuses to tell anyone what happened to him. The news story compares this case to a case in Baltimore where Calliope Je
...more
Marita
Jul 05, 2012 Marita is currently reading it
When Ms. Lippman lays off of her Tess Monohan, her forays into other novels are always interesting answers to the question of "What if?". Ihave read and immensely enjoyed her "Wat the Dead Know" and this novel is following in that other book's footsteps. The premise is a native Baltimorean returning to her roots to squeeze out a best seller. However, while this prodigal daughter has mined literary success through memoirs of her past family and marriage events, this time, the protagonist is pursu ...more
Christy
Author Cassandra Fallows, with two successful memoirs behind her, tries her hand at fiction, which falls flat. When Cassandra reads about a former school friend jailed for contempt for not revealing the whereabouts of her baby’s body, Cassandra gets the idea to write about her childhood and her friends, and the events that lead them to their present-day lives. She returns to Baltimore to interview her family and friends, only to be met with resistance. Calliope Jenkins, the woman accused of murd ...more
Maryann
Apr 28, 2011 Maryann rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Anyone who likes a mystery that has a lot of depth to the story and subplots.
This was a great read. Not so much a mystery as a woman's novel, which is probably why my husband did not care for it. LOL

However, the story does have a mystery as it's spine, and the rest of the story is the flesh on that skeleton. It was the rest of the story that kept me fully engaged as the central character, Cassandra, went in search of her childhood friends to solve the mystery of whether Callie killed her baby and why she wouldn't talk about what happened.

Cassandra is a writer, with two s
...more
Bookmarks Magazine

As in much of her fiction, Life Sentences was inspired by a real-life story -- that of a Baltimore woman who spent seven years in jail for contempt of court for refusing to divulge information about her young son's disappearance. Most critics agreed that Life Sentences, which almost measures up to the career-defining What the Dead Know, is a compelling exploration of ego, friendships, family relationships, memories, racism, self-deception, and betrayals. Reviewers praised Lippman's evocation of

...more
Mary
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Ruth
I've enjoyed a number of Lippman's stand alone mysteries in the past. I was looking forward to Life Sentences. I found the beginning interesting. She refreshed my memories of Now & Laters candy, the smell of the mimeograph machine and the gift of childhood friends. I was charmed with phrases such as "uncommonly common", "he feigned feigning" and the sentence, "he believed in unconditional love, but only under certain circumstances". But, alas, the story as a whole did not live up to the writ ...more
Jan C
Listened to this on my way home my spring trip to North Carolina. Miles fly by.

What happens to a writer, having written two memoirs, who comes home to Baltimore and thinks she has found another story to write. It involves the quartet of girls she grew up with. In the process, they help her to see the "story" she wrote about wasn't necessarily the truth, although she may have believed it at the time she wrote it. Plus, she is facing her aging parents. Having just come from a visit with my aging m
...more
Katie Kenig
This is much more a book about memories and perceptions than it is a mystery. The question of whether or not the narrator, Cassandra's childhood friend committed a murder takes a backseat to Cassandra's own past, which she delves into in order to ask the question "Why do girls who start out in the same place wind up in such different adult realities?"

The answer, of course, is that they weren't in the same place to start with, which seems obvious from the outside but when you are inside of a situ
...more
Denny
Great story! I enjoyed the elements of solving a mystery, a journey of self discovery and that the main character is fifty or so. I like the way this character discovered some humility. And the way that the dynamics between races was understated. Lots to reflect on. A gentle story that could so easily have been filled instead with bitterness.
Amy Paget
This stand-alone novel from bestseller Lippman (Baltimore Blues) examines the extraordinary power of memories. Writer Cassandra Fallows achieved critical and commercial success with an account of her Baltimore childhood growing up in the 1960s and a follow-up dealing with her adult marriages and affairs. The merely modest success of her debut novel leads her back to nonfiction and the possibility of a book about grade school classmate Calliope Jenkins. Accused of murdering her infant son, Jenkin ...more
Jen
Feb 26, 2014 Jen rated it 1 of 5 stars
Shelves: drama
This book is about a writer, Cassandra. She writes two memoirs about her childhood which are successful and then tries to write fiction and fails. The whole book is about Cassie trying to write a memoir about a childhood "friend" who served 7 years in jail, after her child went missing. Callie never confessed to killing the child........all she said was she didn't know. I thought the book was going to be about solving the mystery of what happened to the child. However that is hardy the major plo ...more
Kay
Feb 06, 2014 Kay rated it 4 of 5 stars
Shelves: fiction
An 50 year old author, Cassandra Fallows, returns to her hometown of Baltimore to write the story of a childhood acquaintance that was accused almost 30 years ago of murdering her infant son. His body was never recovered and she refused to talk. Jailed for 7 years for a contempt of court sentence she has long been released. She's dropped out of sight and no one seems to know where she has gone. Cassandra is home to question family, old friends, her lawyers and the police in hopes of finding out ...more
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Laura Lippman was a reporter for twenty years, including twelve years at The (Baltimore) Sun. She began writing novels while working fulltime and published seven books about “accidental PI” Tess Monaghan before leaving daily journalism in 2001. Her work has been awarded the Edgar , the Anthony, the Agatha, the Shamus, the Nero Wolfe, Gumshoe and Barry awards. She also has been nominated for other ...more
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“The problem was that such simple, ordinary bliss seldom formed memories. It was too smooth and silken to adhere. It was the bad stuff, ragged and uneven, that caught, like all those plastic grocery bags stuck in the trees of Baltimore.” 3 likes
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