Life Sentences

by Laura Lippman

I picked this up in the library. The story gripped me – I had envisaged it as a mystery or thriller, but in fact it was neither.  True, there was a story that unravelled, and an explanation towards the end as to the real background to Calliope’s conviction and subsequent jail term.

The character portrayal of Calliope was moving and believable; the reasons for her silence over the events surrounding her baby’s death less so.  Key to the story is the narrator’s character development as she learns the truth about her parents’ relationship.  She is a writer, whose success has been based on two memoirs she wrote concerning her own and her parents’ lives.  These are now seen to have been based on lies and assumptions.

There are some good story threads and some potentially interesting characters, but somehow the story doesn’t hang together very satisfactorily.  The settings described – different households in suburban Baltimore – ring true, and indeed I find I can still picture them now, two weeks after reading the book. Possibly too many characters – fewer, more sharply drawn character might have worked better.