Cartwheel, by Jennifer duBois, a two review

Cartwheel_approved cover


By Jennifer duBois

Random House, 2013

385 pages

Inspired by the Amanda Knox case, this novel (the author’s second) tells the story of an American foreign student accused of murdering another American while studying abroad in Buenos Aires for a semester.

Lily Hayes and Katy Kellers are roommates with a host family, the Carrizos, and while they get along well enough, they are mildly competitive. Katy is the “good” girl, who studies at night, charms the host mother and is getting over a recent break up. Lily is wilder. She bonds with the father of the host family more than the mother, she gets involved with an American boy who is the Carrizos’s neighbor and works at a local club. Five weeks in to their stay in Argentina, while the Carrizos are out of town for a baptism, Katy is murdered. Lily is one of the main suspects. Lily’s family (divorced parents and a younger sister) come to Buenos Aires to support her and come to terms with the fact that Lily is incarcerated in a foreign country. Told in alternating chapters the book recounts the weeks before and after Katy’s murder, exploring the question: could Lily have killed Katy?

This is a well-crafted book with great character explorations. I was very drawn to Lily’s dad, who is open and genuine, and to Lily herself. However, the scenes of Lily and Katy arriving in Buenos Aires were less compelling to me, than the scenes after the murder. The girls didn’t seem as curious about their new culture as I thought they might be. However, duBois does a great job exploring the connections between characters and in particular draws an interesting portrait of Lily’s family. Her parents lost a child before Lily and her sister were born and it is harrowing to think that they could lose another child to a Latin American jail sentence. I really enjoyed the themes explored in this book, in particular the idea that could Lily, a well-bred white girl attending a liberal arts college with well-meaning law abiding parents, commit murder in another country? DuBois examines Lily from multiple angles, including the view of the Argentinean prosecutor, Eduardo Campo. Cartwheel is a good read and an interesting look at how females can subvert each other.

DuBois teaches in the MFA program at Texas State University-San Marcos. She recently won a Whiting Writers’ Award. Congrats!

I received an e-book copy of this book from the publisher via Net Galley.

1 Comment

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One response to “Cartwheel, by Jennifer duBois, a two review

  1. louise crawford

    Having followed the Amanda Knox case thanks for birnging this book to my attention.

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