Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Murder Plot Twists, Turns in 'Cartwheel'

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Murder Plot Twists, Turns in 'Cartwheel'

Article excerpt


By Jennifer duBois

Random House ($26

Writer Jennifer duBois did a neat trick in "Cartwheel." She created a story that's part murder mystery and part chick lit, but ultimately much more. With "Cartwheel," Ms. duBois made herself heir to some of the great novelists of the past, writers who caught the inner lives of their characters and rendered them on the page in beautiful, studied prose.

From the luxuriousness of Ms. duBois' language it's hard to believe that "Cartwheel" was inspired by a tabloid sensation: Amanda Knox, the young American who was accused, convicted and then acquitted of murdering her roommate in Italy.

Ms. duBois states up-front that her themes were loosely based on the Knox case but says the book is entirely a work of fiction. She tells her tale through the perspectives of four main characters: Lily is the freewheeling 20-year-old exchange student living in Buenos Aires, Andrew is her anxious father, odd Sebastien is the young neighbor with whom she has a relationship, and uptight Eduardo is the lawyer who prosecutes her.

Each of them has experienced a great loss in their lives, which Ms. duBois outlines in detail and offers as motive for their behavior. Andrew and his wife, Maureen, had a child who died as a baby. Lily and her sister Anna feel like they were substitutes for the lost firstborn. Sebastien's parents were killed in a plane crash, and Eduardo was left by his wife, Maria.

Ms. duBois, who is 30 years old, fashions an incredibly complete picture of Lily. She is revealed by her own interior monologues as well as seen through the eyes of others, including the media. Some find her to be an obnoxious girl making stupid, crass choices. Lily views herself as a smart young woman just trying to make a life. The meaning of the cartwheel she does during her initial interrogation (something Amanda Knox was reported to have done) will be analyzed by many throughout the book.

Equally remarkable is Ms. duBois' portrait of the damaged father, Andrew. "The only people he respected were the ones whose pain was objectively, empirically, worse than his," she says. …

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