Life Sentences CD: Life Sentences CD
  • Life Sentences CD: Life Sentences CD
  • Life Sentences CD: Life Sentences CD

Life Sentences CD: Life Sentences CD

by Laura Lippman, Linda Emond
     
 

Author Cassandra Fellows has achieved remarkable success by baring her life on the page. 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 neighborhood in Baltimore, her best friends were all

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Overview

Author Cassandra Fellows has achieved remarkable success by baring her life on the page. 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 neighborhood in Baltimore, her best friends were all black. Another girl orbited their world—shy, quiet 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 could be her next bestseller.

But her homecoming and latest journey into the past will not be welcomed by everyone. 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 …and what really transpired on that terrible day.

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Editorial Reviews

Baltimore writer Cassandra Fallows has carved out a modest reputation as an author of autobiographical novels, but recently she decided to venture into the more risky waters of nonfiction. As her first project, she researches the story of a former grade-school classmate who was accused and convicted of murdering her own infant son. Fallows's investigation uncovers troubling new facts about the case, but also disturbing realizations about her own mistaken presuppositions.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780061714719
Publisher:
HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
03/10/2009
Edition description:
Unabridged, 9 CDs, 10.5 hrs
Product dimensions:
5.36(w) x 5.64(h) x 1.56(d)

Read an Excerpt

Life Sentences

Chapter One

"Well," the bookstore manager said, "it is Valentine's Day."

It's not that bad, Cassandra wanted to say in her own defense. But she never wanted to sound peevish or disappointed. She must smile, be gracious and self-deprecating. She would emphasize how wonderfully intimate the audience was, providing her with an opportunity to talk, have a real exchange, not merely prate about herself. Besides, it wasn't tragic, drawing thirty people on a February night in the suburbs of San Francisco. On Valentine's Day. Most of the writers she knew would kill for thirty people under these circumstances, under any circumstances.

And there was no gain in reminding the bookseller...Beth, Betsy, Bitsy, oh dear, the name had vanished, her memory was increasingly buggy...that Cassandra had drawn almost two hundred people to this same store on this precise date four years earlier. Because that might imply she thought someone was to blame for to-night's turnout, and Cassandra Fallows didn't believe in blame. She was famous for it. Or had been.

She also was famous for rallying, and she did just that as she took five minutes to freshen up in the manager's office, brushing her hair and reapplying lipstick. Her hair, her worst feature as a child, was now her best, sleek and silver, but her lips seemed thinner. She adjusted her earrings, smoothed her skirt, reminding herself of her general good fortune. She had a job she loved; she was healthy. Lucky, I am lucky. She could quit now, never write a word again, and live quite comfortably. Her first two books were annuities, more reliable than any investment.

Her third book...ah, well, that was the unloved, misshapen child she was here to exalt.

At the lectern, she launched into a talk that was already honed and automatic ten days into the tour. There was a pediatric hospital across the road from where I grew up. The audience was mostly female, over forty. She used to get more men, but then her memoirs, especially the second one, had included unsparing detail about her promiscuity, a healthy appetite that had briefly gotten out of control in her early forties. It was a long-term-care facility, where children with extremely challenging diagnoses were treated for months, for years in some cases. Was that true? She hadn't done that much research about Kernan. The hospital had been skittish, dubious that a writer known for memoir was capable of creating fiction. Cassandra had decided to go whole hog, abandon herself to the libertine ways of a novelist. Forgo the fact-checking, the weeks in libraries, the conversations with family and friends, trying to make her memories gibe with hard, cold certainty. For the first time in her life...despite what her second husband had claimed...she made stuff up out of whole cloth. The book is an homage to The Secret Garden...in case the title doesn't make that clear enough...and it's set in the 1980s because that was a time when finding biological parents was still formidably difficult, almost taboo, a notion that began to lose favor in the 1990s and is increasingly out of fashion as biological parents gain more rights. It had never occurred to Cassandra that the world at large, much like the hospital, would be reluctant to accept her in this new role. The story is wholly fictional, although it's set in a real place.

She read her favorite passage. People laughed in some odd spots.

Question time. Cassandra never minded the predictability of the Q-and-A sessions, never resented being asked the same thing over and over. It didn't even bother her when people spoke of her father and mother and stepmother and ex-husbands as if they were characters in a novel, fictional constructs they were free to judge and psychoanalyze. But it disturbed her now when audience members wanted to pin down the "real" people in her third book. Was she Hannah, the watchful child who unwittingly sets a tragedy in motion? Or was she the boy in the body cast, Woodrow? Were the parents modeled on her own? They seemed so different, based on the historical record she had created. Was there a fire? An accident in the abandoned swimming pool that the family could never afford to repair?

"Did your father really drive a retired Marathon cab, painted purple?" asked one of the few men in the audience, who looked to be at least sixty. Retired, killing time at his wife's side. "I ask only because my father had an old DeSoto and . .?."

Of course, she thought, even as she smiled and nodded. You care about the details that you can relate back to yourself. I've told my story, committed over a quarter of a million words to paper so far. It's your turn. Again, she was not irked. Her audience's need to share was to be expected. If a writer was fortunate enough to excite people's imaginations, this was part of the bargain, especially for the memoir writer she had been and apparently would continue to be in the public's mind, at least for now. She had told her story, and that was the cue for them to tell theirs. Given what confession had done for her soul, how could she deny it to anyone else?

"Time for one last question," the store manager said, and pointed to a woman in the back. She wore a red raincoat, shiny with moisture, and a shapeless khaki hat that tied under her chin with a leather cord.

"Why do you get to write the story?"

Cassandra was at a loss for words.

"I'm not sure I understand," she began. "You mean, how do I write a novel about people who aren't me? Or are you asking how one gets published?"

"No, with the other books. Did you get permission to write them?"

"Permission to write about my own life?"

"But it's not just your life. It's your parents, your stepmother, friends. Did you let them read it first?"

Life Sentences. Copyright © by Laura Lippman. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

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Meet the Author

Since her debut in 1997, Laura Lippman has been heralded for her thoughtful, timely crime novels set in her beloved hometown of Baltimore. She is the author of twenty works of fiction, including eleven Tess Monaghan mysteries. She lives in Baltimore, New Orleans, and New York City with her family.

Linda Emond's credits include The Sopranos, all four Law & Orders, and American Experience: John & Abigail Adams. On Broadway: 1776 and Life x 3 (Tony® nomination, Outer Critics Circle Award). Off-Broadway appearances include Tony Kushner's Homebody/Kabul (Lucille Lortel Award, Obie Award).

Brief Biography

Hometown:
Baltimore, Maryland
Date of Birth:
January 31, 1959
Place of Birth:
Atlanta, Georgia
Education:
B.S., Medill School of Journalism, Northwestern University, 1981

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