Cartwheel (review)

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Title: Cartwheel
Author: Jennifer duBois
Release Date: September 24, 2013
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery, Crime
Age Group: Adult
Source: Barnes and Noble
Rating: 3.5
“Written with the riveting storytelling and moral seriousness 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.”

My Review

A year or so ago, I was so excited to pick up this book. I saved up some money and drove to the bookstore, ready to dive into it. I had read Amanda Knox's memoir, Waiting to be Heard, fairly recently and thought it was an excellent book. I had also been following her case, a little obsessively, because Knox and I had studied abroad at the same time, (Fall 2007, her: Italy, me: England) and it sadden me how a great and exciting experience could go so horribly wrong.

A little back story: Amanda Knox, a 20 year old American student, who while in Italy was accused of killing her roommate, British student, Meredith Kercher, in 2007. She was convicted, acquitted, and re-convicted of the murder and spent some years in prison before returning to the States. Cartwheel is loosely based on the Knox case and is about Lily Hayes, who stands accused of killing her roommate, Katy Keller, while studying abroad in Buenos Aires.

I started the book and then put it down. For a year. It started out really slow and ended really swiftly. However, the middle part was pretty good, once I got to that part, I could not put the book down. However, I could have done without the point of view of the prosecutor, Eduardo, because his reasons for doing things bordered on insane. Still, I thought the point of views of Lily, her father Andrew, and her boyfriend Sebastien, were fascinating. I liked being able to see the same set of events from different eyes. It made me wonder: how are others seeing me in this moment? And how can one event change the course of so many lives? All the characters, save Eduardo, would have been different if not for the tragedies that happened to them early on. The Hayes lost a daughter, Janie, to disease before Lily was born and Sebastien lost his parents to a plane crash as a teenager. Every decision and reaction these characters made after these instances are based on these losses.

Still, the actual case includes many interesting issues that the novel pretty much stays away from. How does privilege and gender form our opinions? In what ways did how the world saw the United States at the time play a part? I would have liked the novel go into these issues a little bit. The ending rushes through the trial and aftermath in twenty pages, making me wonder what was the point of the story.

Cartwheel is not really about murder. If you are wanting to read a crime thriller, this book isn't for you. Instead, it is more about in what circumstances can we all do (or look like we do) terrible things.

Words To Live By

"Because what, really was on the other side of okay? When you stopped being okay, you were just okay in a worse and different way."
"They had been lucky in a lot of ways, of course. But it was one thing to know that your privilege was unearned; it was another thing entirely to feel that your sadness was, too—to have to be so pitifully glad, so pitifully sorry, for the modest perks of a dull and diligent middle-class life ( TV, and Target candles, and a trip to Six Flags every year). Maybe that’s why the whole family was so repressed. Maybe deep down they believed—as Sebastien apparently did---that, on some level, at the end of the day, they’d had it coming."
"Other young girls feel this way, after all, and they went off on study abroad, and then after a semester they came home, behaving exactly as Lily would have: pretending to slip into Spanish or French by accident, ostentatiously mourning some newly beloved street food, telling stories they hoped would make other people admire their intrepidness as much as they themselves did."
"She was young and nothing was really nailed down yet: … but really, in the broadest sense, anything was still possible, and what a wonder that was. She walked around the city in the afternoons, watching herself in the third person—alone at the cafes, at museums---and she mostly saw the person she had always wanted to watch herself be; a person for whom all the best things were still ahead..."
" There was absolutely nothing like a city at night. It was so easy to believe that everything that could possibly happen was happening right around her—just behind a closed door, just beyond her field of vision. And for all she knew, it was."
"She didn’t want to tiptoe through her life—she wanted to act impulsively; she wanted to be understood and, if need be, forgiven. She wanted everyone to know that she meant well. She wanted everyone to fucking relax ."
"Our generation has such a weird thing with little-kid stuff,” said Katy after a moment.
“What do you mean?”
“Like coloring books and ironic T-shirts with dinosaurs and stuff.”
“I guess. It’s premature nostalgia.”
“What way?”
“Like you could go back to some time that’s passed? Like you catch yourself thinking, why don’t I go there anymore, and why don’t I see those people and attend those parties, and then you remember it’s because that life is gone? And you can’t?"
"Sometimes it seemed to Eduardo that his whole life was only a collection of small impulses denied."


Ultimately, Cartwheel, is a story about the aftermath of grief as well as the perceptions one gives off to the world. 
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As an INFJ Tisha doesn’t like she obsesses. Luckily, she has television, film, and books to keep her busy. Although YA is her favorite, she loves all types of books especially historical fiction. This resident Gryffindor also enjoys traveling and seeing where her wanderlusting nature will take her. Twitter

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