Cartwheel

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NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY
Slate • Cosmopolitan • Salon • BuzzFeed • BookPage

Written with the riveting storytelling of authors like Emma Donoghue, Adam Johnson, Ann Patchett, and Curtis Sittenfeld, Cartwheel is a suspenseful and haunting novel of an American foreign exchange student arrested for murder, and a father trying to hold his family ...

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Cartwheel: A Novel

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Overview

NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY
Slate • Cosmopolitan • Salon • BuzzFeed • BookPage

Written with the riveting storytelling of authors like Emma Donoghue, Adam Johnson, Ann Patchett, and Curtis Sittenfeld, Cartwheel is a suspenseful and haunting novel of an American foreign exchange student arrested for murder, and a father trying to hold his family together.
 
When Lily Hayes arrives in Buenos Aires for her semester abroad, she is enchanted by everything she encounters: the colorful buildings, the street food, the handsome, elusive man next door. Her studious roommate Katy is a bit of a bore, but Lily didn’t come to Argentina to hang out with other Americans.
 
Five weeks later, Katy is found brutally murdered in their shared home, and Lily is the prime suspect. But who is Lily Hayes? It depends on who’s asking. As the case takes shape—revealing deceptions, secrets, and suspicious DNA—Lily appears alternately sinister and guileless through the eyes of those around her: the media, her family, the man who loves her and the man who seeks her conviction. With mordant wit and keen emotional insight, Cartwheel offers a prismatic investigation of the ways we decide what to see—and to believe—in one another and ourselves.
 
In Cartwheel, duBois delivers a novel of propulsive psychological suspense and rare moral nuance. No two readers will agree who Lily is and what happened to her roommate. Cartwheel will keep you guessing until the final page, and its questions about how well we really know ourselves will linger well beyond.
 
WINNER OF THE HOUSATONIC BOOK AWARD

“A smart, literary thriller [for] fans of Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl.”The Huffington Post
 
“Psychologically astute . . . DuBois hits [the] larger sadness just right and dispenses with all the salacious details you can readily find elsewhere. . . . The writing in Cartwheel is a pleasure—electric, fine-tuned, intelligent, conflicted. The novel is engrossing, and its portraiture hits delightfully and necessarily close to home.”The New York Times Book Review (Editor’s Choice)
 
“Marvelous . . . a gripping tale . . . Every sentence crackles with wit and vision. Every page casts a spell.”—Maggie Shipstead, author of Seating Arrangements

“[You’ll] break your own record of pages read per minute as you tear through this book.”Marie Claire
 
“Jennifer duBois is destined for great things.”Cosmopolitan

“A convincing, compelling tale . . . The story plays out in all its well-told complexity.”—New York Daily News

“[A] gripping, gorgeously written novel . . . The emotional intelligence in Cartwheel is so sharp it’s almost ruthless—a tabloid tragedy elevated to high art. [Grade:] A-”—Entertainment Weekly
 
“Sure-footed and psychologically calibrated . . . As the pages fly, the reader hardly notices that duBois has stretched the genre of the criminal procedural.”Newsday

“Provocative, meaningful and suspenseful.”Chicago Tribune

“[Jennifer duBois is] heir to some of the great novelists of the past, writers who caught the inner lives of their characters and rendered them on the page in beautiful, studied prose.”Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble

For American student Lily Hayes, her semester abroad in Buenos Aires began as an idyllic experience. The bustling city; the street culture; the friendly, even exotic young Argentineans she met. Only five weeks into her stay, that glow suddenly disappeared when her roommate Katy is found brutally murdered and Lily is pegged as the number one suspect. From that point, Jennifer Dubois's Cartwheel becomes a hall of mirrors in which everything we see and know about Lily is refracted, depending on the viewer's stance. (P.S. This sophomore novel by the author of the PEN/Hemingway finalist A Partial History of Lost Causes subtly echoes details of the Italian judicial travails of Amanda Knox.)

The New York Times Book Review - Amity Gaige
…the interests of Cartwheel are overwhelmingly literary. Events in the novel are not recounted as newsworthy in themselves, best delivered untouched; rather, DuBois wrings them for that which is universally (or at least culturally) meaningful. She uses the given story, in other words, as a thematic test case: How could a well-intentioned girl—a girl like your daughter or mine—end up looking so guilty of murder, leading millions to believe the charges? How does our American blitheness, the growing sexual confidence of (some of) our young women, the openness of speech and behavior, operate out of context? When is naïveté a kind of crime? And how is a parent implicated by a child who commits such a crime?…The writing in Cartwheel is a pleasure—electric, fine-tuned, intelligent, conflicted. The novel is engrossing, and its portraiture hits delightfully and necessarily close to home.
Publishers Weekly
Taking themes that were “loosely inspired by the story of Amanda Knox,” Cartwheel follows American exchange student Lily Hayes, who has been accused of murdering her roommate, Katy Kellers, in Argentina. Like Knox, Lily’s troublesome lack of anguish, as reportedly evidenced by canoodling with her boyfriend the day after the murder, causes an uproar in the media. Like Knox, Lily seems to have been completely normal—so normal, in fact, that her disbelief at her predicament leads to some bad choices. While duBois (A Partial History of Lost Causes) clearly has the authorial chops to illustrate complex characters, Cartwheel remains flat partly because she seems more focused on avoiding right answers or easy sympathy than creating characters who are more than moral specimens. While muddying the waters of right and wrong is almost always a valiant cause in literature, this novel reads more like an intellectual exercise in examining all the different angles rather than an emotional engagement with human beings. Agent: Henry Dunow, Dunow, Carlson & Lerner. (Oct. 1)
From the Publisher
“A smart, literary thriller [for] fans of Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl.”The Huffington Post
 
“Psychologically astute . . . DuBois hits [the] larger sadness just right and dispenses with all the salacious details you can readily find elsewhere. . . . The writing in Cartwheel is a pleasure—electric, fine-tuned, intelligent, conflicted. The novel is engrossing, and its portraiture hits delightfully and necessarily close to home.”The New York Times Book Review (Editor’s Choice)
 
“[You’ll] break your own record of pages read per minute as you tear through this book.”Marie Claire
 
“Jennifer duBois is destined for great things.”Cosmopolitan

“A convincing, compelling tale . . . The story plays out in all its well-told complexity.”—New York Daily News

“[A] gripping, gorgeously written novel . . . The emotional intelligence in Cartwheel is so sharp it’s almost ruthless—a tabloid tragedy elevated to high art. [Grade:] A-”—Entertainment Weekly
 
“Sure-footed and psychologically calibrated . . . Reviewers of duBois’s first novel, A Partial History of Lost Causes, called it brainy and beautiful, a verdict that fits this successor. . . . As the pages fly, the reader hardly notices that duBois has stretched the genre of the criminal procedural. The limberness is welcome, indeed.”Newsday

“Something more provocative, meaningful and suspenseful than the tabloids and social media could provide . . . [DuBois] tells a great story. . . . The power of Cartwheel resides in duBois’ talent for understanding how the foreign world can illuminate the most deeply held secrets we keep from others, and ourselves.”Chicago Tribune

“[Jennifer duBois is] heir to some of the great novelists of the past, writers who caught the inner lives of their characters and rendered them on the page in beautiful, studied prose. . . . She aims to observe the thoughts that intrude at the most inappropriate times, to capture memories and intricate emotions, and to make penetrating comments about living today. In Cartwheel, she accomplishes this with acrobatic precision.”Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

“From the first page, duBois’s intelligent, penetrating writing makes this sad story captivating, delivering it from the realm of scuttlebutt and into that of art. . . . What else can we learn from these events? The answer is plenty, as duBois explores grief and love, youth and aging, and Americans abroad through a set of distinctive characters bound by calamity.”The Dallas Morning News

“[A] thrilling book . . . What influences our perception of reality—morality, faith, sexuality, privilege—and what happens when we realize those perceptions aren’t infallible? Recommended for: Anyone who . . . tends to get sucked into Law and Order and/or Criminal Minds marathons, or anyone who thrives on suspense.”BuzzFeed

“[A] compelling, carefully crafted, and, most importantly, satisfying novel.”—Bustle

“An astonishing, breathtaking, and harrowing read.”New York Journal of Books

“[DuBois] does an excellent job of creating and maintaining a pervasive feeling of foreboding and suspense. . . . An acute psychological study of character that rises to the level of the philosophical . . . Cartwheel is very much its own individual work of the author’s creative imagination.”Booklist (starred review)

“Jennifer duBois, a writer whose fierce intelligence is matched only by her deep humanity, hits us with a marvelous second novel that intertwines a gripping tale of murder abroad with an intimate story of family heartbreak. Every sentence crackles with wit and vision. Every page casts a spell.”—Maggie Shipstead, New York Times bestselling author of Seating Arrangements

Cartwheel is so gripping, so fantastically evocative, that I could not, would not, put it down. Jennifer duBois is a writer of thrilling psychological precision. She dares to pause a moment, digging into the mess of crime and accusation, culture and personality, the known and unknown, and coming up with a sensational novel of profound depth.”—Justin Torres, New York Times bestselling author of We the Animals

“Jennifer duBois’s Cartwheel seized my attention and held it in a white-knuckled grip until I found myself reluctantly and compulsively turning its final pages very late at night. It’s an addictive book that made me miss train stops and wouldn’t let me go to sleep until I’d read just one more chapter. And it’s so much more than just a ravenous page-turner—it’s a rumination on the bloodthirsty rubbernecking of the twenty-four-hour news cycle and the bewitching powers of social media, and a scalpel-sharp dissection of innocence abroad, a book charged with a refreshing anger, but always empathic. Jennifer duBois has captured the sleazy leer of lurid crime and somehow twisted it into a work of art.”—Benjamin Hale, author of The Evolution of Bruno Littlemore

“Like its namesake, Cartwheel will upend you; rarely does a novel this engaging ring so true. Inscribed with the emotional intimacy of memory, this is one story you will not soon forget.”—T. Geronimo Johnson, author of Hold It ’Til It Hurts

Kirkus Reviews
2013-09-15
A young, white American woman studying overseas is accused of murdering her roommate. She is seen through different prisms in this second novel from duBois (A Partial History of Lost Causes, 2012). According to the author, "the themes of this book were loosely inspired by the story of Amanda Knox." The first link is the title, which appropriates Amanda's notorious cartwheel while in police custody in Italy. The cartwheeler here is 20-year-old Lily Hayes. She has come to Buenos Aires, ostensibly, to further her studies. Her roommate is bland, beautiful Katy Kellers from Los Angeles. Their neighbor, who lives by himself in a decaying mansion, is the ridiculously rich American Sebastien LeCompte. The young, lonely, epicene Sebastien, who hides his true self under layers of affectation, belongs in Capote country. He would seem an improbable boyfriend for either of the women, yet he and Lily begin a relationship, with Lily calling the shots. The horror comes one night when Lily finds Katy stabbed to death. The state investigator, Eduardo Campos, is convinced of Lily's guilt. The novel begins with Lily's professor father, Andrew, visiting her in a holding cell. It cycles through four viewpoints (Andrew, Lily, Sebastien, Eduardo) and moves between the buildup to the murder and its aftermath. The author may have been hoping to combine a crime novel with a novel of character. Neither one works. The awkward construction means suspense is minimal. Attempts to cannibalize Amanda's story, such as Lily's fingering of her black boss at the club where she worked weekends, fall flat. Lily herself is a not very interesting addition to those thousands of young Americans looking to spread their wings in an exotic locale. Readers are meant to presume her innocence while retaining a tiny sliver of doubt, reinforced by that ballyhooed, albeit irrelevant, cartwheel. So what really went down? The dubious confession of the killer is the only clue. A tangled tale that leaves protagonist Lily, and the crime, unilluminated.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780812995862
  • Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 9/24/2013
  • Pages: 384
  • Product dimensions: 6.60 (w) x 9.52 (h) x 1.18 (d)

Meet the Author

Jennifer duBois’s A Partial History of Lost Causes was one of the most acclaimed debuts of recent years. It was a finalist for the PEN/Hemingway Award for Debut Fiction, winner of the California Book Award for First Fiction and the Northern California Book Award for Fiction, and O: The Oprah Magazine chose it as one of the ten best books of the year. DuBois was also named one of the National Book Foundation’s 5 Under 35 authors. A graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, duBois recently completed a Stegner Fellowship at Stanford University. Originally from Massachusetts, she now lives in Texas.

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Interviews & Essays

A Conversation with Jennifer duBois, Author of Cartwheel

What drove your interest in the topic of a college girl accused of murder while studying abroad?

Cartwheel's themes were loosely inspired by the case of Amanda Knox, the American exchange student accused, convicted, and then acquitted of murder in Italy. What fascinated me about the case was the way that different people seemed to view it incredibly differently (though often with similar levels of certainty), and how often these differing views seemed to be inflected by broader issues of class, gender, privilege, race, culture, American entitlement, anti-American resentment, etc. So I was interested in using a completely fictional landscape to explore how people wind up with divergent but confident beliefs about the same situation.

It's a real treat for the reader to get inside of the heads of several different characters and see their viewpoints. Why did you decide to write the book with interchanging perspectives?

Since I was hoping to explore how different people arrive at different interpretations of the same situation, it seemed important to show that process. The point of view characters are all smart and operating in good faith, but they have a different set of premises and values, and different sorts of backstories and biases, and so they arrive at wildly different conclusions. Readers will come away from Cartwheel with different conclusions, too, but I hope that everybody will experience a few moments of really questioning their own certainty.

Why is the novel titled Cartwheel?

The title was actually my genius agent's idea, and I really liked it for a couple of reasons. It refers to one of the moments in the book that the different characters see very differently: Lily turns a cartwheel during her initial interrogation, which some people view as sinister and callous, and others view as guileless and naïve—the kind of thing that only a person who was innocent of a crime would ever do. So although the cartwheel itself is a relatively minor episode, the different ways the characters view the cartwheel is representative of the overarching issue. I'd also been drawn to the idea of referring to circles or cycles in the title, since the book is interested in the notion of events recurring, and of actions being interpreted through the framework of patterns that exist beyond the level of the individual. There are several moments where characters consider the lives or selves they might have had or been if this or that variable had gone differently, and each character is haunted, to a certain extent, by these alternate possibilities. The characters also share a tendency to make sense of Lily's situation through the prism of history: Lily's father sees her as the latest in a long line of innocent women persecuted for violating cultural norms, for example, while Eduardo sees her as the heir to a legacy of American murderousness and entitlement. What's interesting to me is that both of those narratives are grounded in historical reality, but neither of them actually has anything to do with whether one specific individual committed one specific crime—each narrative can offer a context for facts, but no narrative can actually provide the facts. And in these moments, both Andrew and Eduardo are briefly looking beyond Lily by viewing her as the kind of person who either victimizes or is victimized, instead of a particular person who either did or did not do a specific thing. So the title Cartwheel seemed to capture the cycle or circle idea in an original and concrete way. I also really liked the idea of having a short weird title that people remember, instead of a long weird title that people forget.

How was writing this book different than your first, A Partial History of Lost Causes?

I think my access point to writing Cartwheel was more intellectual than it was with A Partial History of Lost Causes. With the first book, I was exploring a question that was on some level very close to me—what do you do when you confront a lost cause?—and though that question is no less abstract than the ones raised in Cartwheel, the fact that it had had real resonance in my own life made writing Partial History feel more personal. With Cartwheel, I was exploring a scenario I've been lucky enough to escape—everyone sometimes misunderstands other people and is sometimes misunderstood, of course, but a lot of the time these perceptual mistakes don't have enormous fallout in our lives. I found it really interesting and frightening to imagine a situation where they did—where one character's life or freedom might hinge on another character's snap judgment—and it was my curiosity about that that led me into writing Cartwheel.

Who have you discovered lately?

own such a shamefully large backlog of unread books that I feel like I'm always discovering writers years after everyone else does—or decades, in the case of The Secret History by Donna Tartt and Geography of the Heart by Fenton Johnson, both of which I read this year and loved. I also really admired Billy Lynn's Long Half-time Walk by Ben Fountain, as well as Marjorie Celona's debut novel Y and Sara Peters' debut poetry collection 1996. And I'm excited about a lot of fiction by newer writers that will be appearing in the next year or so: Kirstin Valdez Quade's debut story collection, Jubilee; Molly Antopol's debut collection The UnAmericans; Chris Leslie-Hynan's debut novel Ride Around Shining; and second novels from Maggie Shipstead, Keija Parssinen, and T. Geronimo Johnson. I've also been reading Anna Karenina all summer, but I'm not sure I can really claim that one as a discovery.

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Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing all of 9 Customer Reviews
  • Posted October 17, 2013

    I have concluded that my book selection swayed by the PR was tot

    I have concluded that my book selection swayed by the PR was totally wrong. This is not the type of novel that I enjoy or even find interesting. Having read other reviews now I would still have made the same mistake. Jennifer DuBois must be very pleased with the feedback from readers but unfortunately I am not one of them. This book mysteriously forced me through to its end, whilst just giving me crumbs of hope that it may just turn the corner, and provide some excitement and entertainment.

    Cartwheel was an odd name for this book and until this was explained, you could be forgiven for linking to the speed of an old wooden cart. The writing style may suit a lot of people who scan and don't actually read all the words, as it is crowded with a great excess of text that perhaps adds only a little to characters and atmosphere, but nothing for the overall story - it could have forty percent shorter and would have moved along more quickly.

    Other reviewers have suggested Cartwheel is based on, or inspired by the Amanda Knox story, to me that sounds about right, as here we are several years on and we still don't know for sure who killed the victim. The characters painted by the author were all very troubled, in particular Sebastian who was a great irritation whilst reading, his language forcing you to stop and ponder what was actually said. This character could have been easily used to spice up the plot creating some exciting diversions for the reader.

    If like me you like a fast paced exciting thriller my recommendation is give this a pass.

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted November 13, 2013

    more from this reviewer

    Lily is a student in Argentina for a semester. She is enamored w

    Lily is a student in Argentina for a semester. She is enamored with the culture, but feels unwelcome and uncomfortable in her host home, and her roommate Katy is a bit of a drag. She becomes friendly with the odd, isolated young neighbor next door.

    Sebastian, a wealthy diplomat's son, lost his parents when he was a teenager and now lives the life of a hermit, rarely leaving his neglected, dark and depressing mansion of sorts.

    Several weeks later, Katy is found brutally murdered, and Lily is the prime suspect arrested in her murder.

    The author clarifies that, while inspired by Amanda Knox, this story is entirely fictional.

    This book alternates viewpoints, so one minute Lily seems to be a self-absorbed and thoughtless brat, and the next when you see it through her own eyes you think maybe she is those things, but also just a little misunderstood.

    Sebastian is a very odd character that I just couldn't understand. Whether I was seeing him through his own eyes or those of someone else, I was totally confused over what is motivation was for his bizarre behavior.

    Katy is a rather studious and serious girl. She's thoughtful and self-aware. She's something of the antithesis of Lily. Her death is shocking to everyone. While Lily might go to nightclubs and worked at a local restaurant, Katy was quiet and seemed to always have her nose in a book. She is the last person you would expect to find murdered.

    This book unfurls like a Dateline murder mystery, piece by piece, first one view then another. You lean this way with one person’s view, and then another person’s view of the exact same event has you feeling totally different about it all. There really is a Gone Girl aspect to this book.


    My final word: This was my first Jennifer duBois novel, and I would definitely read her again. Everything in this story is interwoven. One thing mentioned at one point will be addressed again later from a different perspective, and you think “Oh” in wonder as you realize your initial assessment is all wrong. It had great suspense. With only 70 pages left in the story, I still wasn’t sure “whodunit”. It definitely has a Gone Girl feel to it. However, unlike in Gone Girl, where the characters were so unlikable I just wanted to finish it to get away from them, with this novel, I wanted to reach the end to find out what happened! Peculiar, uncustomary and provocative, I've gotta recommend this one!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 6, 2013

    Amazing

    Such creative suspense

    1 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 27, 2014

    I was disappointed by this book. I kept waiting for it to get or

    I was disappointed by this book. I kept waiting for it to get original in any substantial way but it never did. With the exception of very few minor details, this was essentially a re telling of Amanda Knox's story. Highly unoriginal on the part of the author.  

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 26, 2013

    Confusing

    Too many questions are left unanswered which made this less than satisfying to read.

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  • Posted December 11, 2013

    Check out the full review at Kritters Ramblings  At this point

    Check out the full review at Kritters Ramblings

     At this point in time, 99% of the world has heard about the Amanda Knox case and trial - the student studying abroad who finds her roommate has been murdered.  Cartwheel is a fictional tale based on some of the facts from this case and hearing a fictional tale about this major news story was very interesting.

    Lilly is studying abroad in Buenos Aires and just 5 weeks in, her roommate is brutally murdered and from the beginning the focus is on her.  Told through the eyes of her family, the prosecution and her before the incident, this book takes you through the befores and afters of the crime.  I absolutely adored hearing the build up of Lilly and Katy's relationship, but I didn't quite love the parts from Eduardo the prosecutor.  His abnormally large words and language felt out of character and I felt like his personal life was awkwardly used to affect his views of the case.  The other characters and parts greatly outdid his.

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    Posted November 21, 2014

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    Posted April 2, 2014

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    Posted December 31, 2013

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