By Jennifer du Bois
(Random House, Hardcover, 9780812995862, September 2013, 384pp.)
The Short of It:
One of those stories that is ripped right out the headlines, and yet you still find yourself eagerly turning pages even though the story is not new to you.
The Rest of It:
There has been a lot of praise for Cartwheel and after finishing the book, I can certainly see why.
Largely inspired by the Amanda Knox trial, Cartwheel follows the events leading up to the murder of Katy Kellers, a young American living with a host family in Buenos Aires. Her American roommate, Lily Hayes is accused of the crime. With no alibi to speak of, and what the crime investigator sees as questionable behavior in the form of a cartwheel, perfectly executed by Lily in the interrogation room, Lily is looking quite guilty even by those who know her.
Lily Hayes makes a very interesting character study. She is slightly off kilter in her thinking and no matter how dire her situation seems to be, she fails to see the severity of the situation. You cannot believe anything that she says and because of that, it’s impossible to know what is going on in her head. As she sits in prison, awaiting her trial, she appears to be a victim, but is she? When her parents and sister fly out to see her, what they see is what she WANTS them to see. A victim. A disheveled, dirty, largely misunderstood victim. But what about that cartwheel? A cartwheel? In the middle of an interrogation? With absolutely no regard to how that might look to anyone watching?
As a reader, we learn a lot about Lily, but I have to say that I never felt as if I really knew her. She’s as complex as she is frustrating. The investigation, headed-up by the lead prosecutor in the case, Eduardo Campos, is not always on the up-and-up either. He’s pretty sure that what he has in front of him is cut and dry, and yet… he continues to wonder about her motive. I enjoyed his take on what was going on, but by the end, I have to admit that I was still a bit confused over whether or not she was guilty of the crime. I think I know, but I can’t be sure.
Cartwheel is a page-turner. No lie. But what I didn’t expect is just how similar this fictional tale is to what really happened with Amanda Knox. Lily employs the use of a cartwheel, whereas Amanda Knox did yoga. There is a bar owner in both Knox’s case as well as Lily’s and the whole thing with finding DNA on the bra clasp appears in both stories. I think as a fictional work, DuBois could have taken us somewhere else with all of that, but I can’t say that knowing the real-life facts took anything away from the story.
Overall, it was a gripping read but not because there is a lot going on. More so, because as you read, you can’t help but review the facts and come to your own conclusion on what happened or could have happened. For that reason, you pay attention to every word on the page. It’s a book that I could easily fall back into even after reading other books in between. That’s saying quite a bit given my attention span at the time I read it.
In a nutshell, it’s a keeper.
Source: Sent to me by the publisher.
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