Life Sentences by Laura Lippman
Published by William Morrow/Harper Collins (2009)
Last year I read my first Lippman novel: What the Dead Know (read my review). I loved it. So when I saw that TLC Book Tours would be touring Lippman’s book Life Sentences, I knew I wanted to participate. Life Sentences is a thoughtful, character driven novel with a mystery (read my review) which will appeal to readers who enjoy mysteries, but also like literary fiction.
A little bit about Laura Lippman:
Laura Lippman grew up in Baltimore and in 1989 worked there as a journalist for the Baltimore Sun. After writing seven books while still a full-time reporter, she left her journalism job in order to focus full-time on fiction. The author of two New York Times bestsellers, What the Dead Know and Another Thing to Fall, she has won numerous awards for her work, including the Edgar, Quill, Anthony, Nero Wolfe, Agatha, Gumshoe, Barry, and Macavity. Learn more about Laura Lippman and her books on the author’s website.
I was thrilled when Laura agreed to write a guest post for my blog. Enjoy!!
copyright Laura Lippman (2010)
Thank you, Wendy, for letting me hang out at your blog today. It’s an honor. I may be dating myself, but I’d like to start by invoking a song from Gigi. The singers are Honore and Mamita, former lovers.
H: We met at nine
M: We met at eight
H: I was on time
M: No, you were late
H: Ah, yes, I remember it well
We dined with friends
M: We dined alone
H: A tenor sang
M: A baritone
H: Ah, yes, I remember it well
That dazzling April moon!
M: There was none that night
And the month was June
H: That’s right. That’s right.
M: It warms my heart to know that you
remember still the way you do
H: Ah, yes, I remember it well.
I’ve always inferred that the conceit of the song is that it’s pragmatic Mamita who is right about all the details, while it’s dashing Honore who has twisted everything. (“That’s right. That’s right.’) After all, he’s trying to charm her and she always gets the last word.
But – who says? When memories clash, how do we prove our case? Most of us just pile on more details, as if the vividness of a memory is proof. It’s not. It’s just proof that we are convinced of our memory’s veracity.
A few years ago, I was lamenting a lost sweatshirt, one with an insignia from one of my husband’s projects. It was lost in a taxicab in Ireland in 2006. On that detail, we were in agreement. But I said it had been embroidered with the name Project 2. (Forgive me for being vague. I am famously reticent about my somewhat famous spouse.) He said it was Project Previous. I said I was sure it was Project 2 because I wore it so often. He said that he would know better than I because it was his project, after all. We tossed details back and forth at each other. I remembered that the hem was frayed. He argued that established it was probably an older garment. I said that I didn’t get much swag from his work, which was why I had commandeered this particular sweatshirt. He said he wore it more often than I did. After all, he was the one who left it in the cab. We called the argument a draw.
A month later, he organized years of photos. There I was in Ireland. Wearing the mourned sweatshirt. And there was the Project 2 insignia, clearly visible. A better woman might have let it pass. I am not a better woman.
“OK, OK,” my husband said. “You win.”
“But it’s not about winning,” I told him. “We both thought we were right. In this case, I was. But that’s not important. What I want you to focus on is how sure you were, how adamant and impassioned you became. That proves that passionate faith in your memory doesn’t guarantee anything. If you can be wrong when you were so sure you were right, then isn’t there always the possibility that a memory is wrong?”
“Yes, but –” And he continued to argue, only this time the debate centered on why his error was understandable.
One of the hardest things a person can do is take a heart-felt memory and admit that it’s wrong, or riddled with invented details. Because if we are wrong about one memory, couldn’t we be wrong about all of them? And if we’re wrong about all of them – then who are we? That’s the story behind LIFE SENTENCES. A woman begins to pull on the threads of her life – and everything falls apart. It sounds terrifying, doesn’t it? But I’ve found that it also can be reassuring in a strange way.
And if you stop arguing based on memory, you’ll be amazed by how much time you save!
Visit more TLC Book tours of Laura Lippman’s novel:
- Monday, March 1st: Raging Bibliomania
- Monday, March 8th: Thoughts From an Evil Overlord
- Tuesday, March 9th: Wordlily
- Wednesday, March 10th: Shhh I’m Reading
- Monday, March 15th: Booksie’s Blog
- Wednesday, March 17th: The Book Zombie
- Tuesday, March 23rd: I’m Booking It
- Thursday, March 25th: pages turned
- Monday, March 29th: Luxury Reading
- Wednesday, March 31st: Cozy Little House