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Life Sentences

3.14  ·  Rating Details  ·  3,712 Ratings  ·  589 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 triumphan ...more
Paperback, 344 pages
Published March 2nd 2010 by William Morrow Paperbacks (first published January 1st 2009)
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Apr 10, 2013 Laura rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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
Apr 02, 2009 Michael rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mystery, read-in-2009
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
Oct 05, 2014 Britany rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audiobook
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
Apr 15, 2009 Laren rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mysteries, fiction
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
May 09, 2014 Kelly rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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
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
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.
Apr 05, 2009 Kayeb rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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
May 18, 2012 Rebecca rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: book-club
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
Apr 27, 2009 Jennifer rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition

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
Oct 29, 2015 Lesley rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: did-not-like
Just didn't care, only finished for something to do while at work! and I own it! Now donating it and maybe someone else will like it!
Mar 22, 2012 Sherry rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Sofia Galvez
Jan 10, 2016 Sofia Galvez rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2016, audio
3 Platypires for Life Sentences by Laura Lippman

This is the forth book I've read from Laura Lippman and I believe its safe to say its either hit or miss with her. This time around I found the story to very lack-luster and was missing the big pay off to the mystery of the novel. I also felt the characters weren't that likable nor relatable.
The reason for a 3 star instead of a 2 was that I was still was interested in certain issues with the characters. Lippmann kept her characters secrets inte
Kelly Hager
May 10, 2010 Kelly Hager rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Mar 23, 2009 Laurel-Rain rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
May 31, 2010 Maddy rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2009-reads
PROTAGONIST: Cassandra Fallows, author
SETTING: Baltimore
SERIES: Standalone

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
Apr 23, 2009 Rhonda rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
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
Apr 05, 2009 Monie rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jul 05, 2012 Marita is currently reading it  ·  review of another edition
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
Nov 03, 2009 Christy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Apr 28, 2011 Maryann rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
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

Apr 29, 2009 Mary rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mystery
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Apr 21, 2009 Ruth rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Sep 02, 2015 Phyllis rated it really liked it
This book is all about uncovering the past. Are the memories of childhood reliable? How is it that other people remember these things differently? Is the truth people carry into adulthood really the Truth? Or are these memories skewed by time and the needs of others to present themselves in a good light? Do memories even matter?

Cassandra Fallows, a successful author, returns to her hometown with thoughts of writing a book based on her past and the young friends of her youth in late 1960's Baltim
Jan C
Apr 23, 2014 Jan C rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mystery, library, balto, audio, 2014
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
Katie Kenig
Mar 14, 2015 Katie Kenig rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: general-fiction
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
Mar 09, 2013 Denny rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
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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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