Monday, October 21, 2013

Cartwheel Compelling, But Not Satisfying

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

Andrew and Maureen Hayes have already been through the worst tragedy parents can face.  The loss of their baby daughter traumatized them so thoroughly that nothing has ever been quite the same.  They raised two more girls—with extreme fear and caution—then divorced, and now live separate lives.  Even now that their daughters are grown, the pall of Janie's death remains, coloring the family's every interaction.  

When the estranged couple receives the shocking news that their 21-year-old has been arrested in Buenos Aires on charges of murder, they brace themselves for another heart-wrenching maelstrom.  They know their daughter is innocent.  Lily may be thoughtless and naive, but she's never been violent.  And yet, her roommate, another American college student, has been viciously stabbed to death.  All the evidence points to one suspect:  Lily.  As incriminating emails, damning photos and illuminating DNA results come to light, the case becomes more unsettling still.  Everyone, from the Hayes' to their lawyers to the corner store gossips want to know:  What really happened on the night Katy Kellers was murdered?  Did Lily kill her roommate?  And, if she didn't, who did?  The strange boy in the crumbling mansion next door?  A leering bartender?  Katy's host father?  Through it all, the Hayes' must answer the most disconcerting question of all:  How well do they really know their own child?  

Like the strange story of Amanda Knox—the American student arrested in Italy in 2009 for the fatal stabbing of her roommate—Cartwheel by Jennifer DuBois tells a tale that's both lurid and mesmerizing.  It's less a murder mystery, though, than an examination of an already fractured family facing yet another insurmountable trial.  Watching the Hayes' stumble their way through the situation begs the question:  How would I react in a similar situation?  A disquieting thought, to be sure.  With this rumination lingering in the background, Cartwheel is a gripping, character-driven novel that's as intriguing as it is frightening.  It's also pretty dang depressing.  Overall, I found it compelling, but not all that satisfying.      

(Readalikes:  Reminded me of Defending Jacob by William Landay)

Grade:

     
If this were a movie, it would be rated:


for strong language, violence, sexual content and depictions of illegal drug use/underage drinking

To the FTC, with love:  I received an ARC of Cartwheel from the generous folks at Random House via those at TLC Book Tours.  Thank you!

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