Memories are notoriously unreliable, and it’s often said that no two witnesses observe the same event the same way. In Life Sentences, best selling memoir writer Cassandra Fallows is about to learn those lessons the hard way. Because she wrote about her childhood in Baltimore, and she now lives in New York, Cassandra never anticipated coming into contact with friends she hasn’t seen in more than 30 years. Then she reads in a newspaper about one of them, a woman named Cassie who was imprisoned for nearly a decade for contempt of court, for refusing to talk about the disappearance of her infant son. Cassandra sees a new book in this topic, and returns to Baltimore to research the case. Along the way, she discovers that truth can be a slippery thing to pin down, and is shocked at the resentments held by those who were included in her memoir.
The characters in this book are intensely real, strong willed and full of contradictions. The plot is a “talky” one, in which most of the “action” consists of driving and dining, with a bit of sex thrown in. For a fifty year old woman, Cassandra remains as self centered as a teenager, and her sense of ethics is a shifting one. Race plays a tremendous role in the story, in which most of the characters are African American, and Cassandra is white. Political chicanery is also an important theme. Author Lippman is superb at portraying relationships, as she continues to prove in her novels.
In the end, Cassandra does pin down some truths, about her parents, about Cassie, about her school friends, about herself. Does she begin to outgrow her narcissism? Probably not….. As the title of her memoirs shows, she is “Her Father’s Daughter.”