There are passages of observation so closely controlled and beautiful in "Cartwheel," the second novel by Jennifer duBois, that what she describes seems as if it will stay described for good. Of a Boston train station, she writes that "the clean sheets of light falling through the window always felt somehow Atlantic, oceanic, and the ashen seagulls outside made smudges against the concrete and sky. This kind of precise, detail-oriented writing is the shibboleth of contemporary fiction, the mark of a novelist's seriousness. John Updike, though in many respects his reputation has gone into eclipse, has in this regard never been more influential. Such skillfulness here will convince many readers that "Cartwheel" is a good novel; alas, it is not. The book's writing may be excellent, but it's a bloodless excellence.
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When Lily Hayes arrives in Buenos Aires for her semester abroad, she is enchanted by everything she encounters: the colorful buildings, the street food, the handsome, elusive man next door. Five weeks later, Katy is found brutally murdered in their shared home, and Lily is the prime suspect. But who is Lily Hayes? As the case takes shape—revealing deceptions, secrets, and suspicious DNA—Lily appears alternately sinister and guileless through the eyes of those around her: the media, her family, the man who loves her and the man who seeks her conviction.
With mordant wit and keen emotional insight, Cartwheel offers a prismatic investigation of the ways we decide what to see—and to believe—in one another and ourselves. In Cartwheel, duBois delivers a novel of propulsive psychological suspense and rare moral nuance. No two readers will agree who Lily is and what happened to her roommate. Cartwheel will keep you guessing until the final page, and its questions about how well we really know ourselves will linger well beyond.
DuBois hits [the] larger sadness just right and dispenses with all the salacious details you can readily find elsewhere. The writing in Cartwheel is a pleasure—electric, fine-tuned, intelligent, conflicted. The novel is engrossing, and its portraiture hits delightfully and necessarily close to home.
Every sentence crackles with wit and vision. Every page casts a spell. The story plays out in all its well-told complexity.
As the pages fly, the reader hardly notices that duBois has stretched the genre of the criminal procedural. Originally from Massachusetts, she now lives in Texas. Outside the window, the sun was a hideous orb, bleeding orange light through wavering heat. Andrew was still woozy from his two Valiums and two glasses of wine, the bare minimum that he needed to fly these days—to anywhere, for anything, though especially for here, for this.
The irony of being a professor of international relations who was terrified of international travel was not lost on him no irony was lost on him, ever , but it could not be helped.
Andrew patted Anna on the shoulder and she roused herself. He watched her forget and then remember what was happening. Anna had endured the trip reasonably well—her sensible hair was limp in a ponytail; her nautical stripes, so favored by his students these days, were barely creased. She wore her competence lightly. It always hurt. Now his eye hurt every morning, every flight, every time he was tired or stressed, which he always would be, now, for the foreseeable future. His eyeballs were so dry that he thought they might tear.
The Argentina flights from the East Coast went only once a day, and only from D. Andrew could not, he reminded himself, have gotten here any earlier. Outside, it was summer, as Andrew had known—but secretly not entirely believed—that it would be.
Anna shimmied out of her jacket, her nose crinkling at the smell of gasoline. Inside the airport, the terminal thrummed with travelers. Andrew wished desperately to keep Anna away from the newspapers. The coverage was only just beginning to leak over to the United States, anyway, and Andrew had spent long hours on the Internet looking for the stories: the depictions of Lily as hypersexual, unstable, amoral; the lurid intimations about her romantic jealousy and rage; the accounts of her smug and towering atheism.
And finally, the worst, most militantly misunderstood information of all: the fact that a delivery truck driver had seen Lily running from the house with blood on her face the day after the murder. He was beginning to understand what story they were trying to tell. Announcing that the sodas would be better outside the airport, Andrew maneuvered Anna rather deftly, he thought toward baggage claim, where they waited for fifteen minutes in silence. In wrestling the suitcase off the conveyer belt, Andrew accidentally stomped on the foot of an androgynous teenager.
Beside him, Andrew could feel Anna stiffen; Andrew liked to at least know how to apologize wherever he went, but Anna hated it when he tried to speak any language other than English. Two summers ago, in a different lifetime, Andrew had spent three months doing research in Bratislava—his area was emerging post-Soviet democracies, though his job got a little less interesting the more fully the democracies emerged—and afterward the girls had met him in Prague for a week of castles and bridges and beer.
Anna had flinched every time he opened his mouth to deploy some phrase he remembered from his three semesters of college Czech. Lily, on the other hand, had made him teach her as much Czech as he could, and had then thrown it around willy-nilly—mispronounced, absurd, chirping informal greetings at storekeepers who tended to smile at her, even though she was basically insulting them, because she was so obviously well-intentioned.
It seemed now that this was not the case. Through the hazy heat, Andrew saw barrios with squat, intersecting systems of housing; clotheslines shimmering with brightly colored clothes; the occasional corrugated tin roof winking astral-bright in the sun. The roads were medium-good; the infrastructure in general seemed decent. Out the window, Andrew saw satellite dishes wedged improbably between houses, looking like the detritus of abandoned spaceships.
He saw a large compound, walled and razor-wired, manned by two security guards with walkie-talkies. He craned his neck to see if it was the prison, but it turned out to only be a housing development.
She was looking out her own window and did not turn around. She had lately taken to making inscrutable declarative statements in studied neutral tones.
Andrew desperately hoped that this was not the onset of irony. Before she had left, he and Maureen had had a series of sober conversations with her—about the harshness of Latin American drug laws, mostly, as well as the laxity of Latin American sexual safety standards.
Andrew reeled to think of how much sex his daughter would have to have to run through all of them. Nevertheless, he had bravely and maturely had the conversation, alongside Maureen such was their commitment to pragmatism! And Andrew had worried about Lily constantly—he worried about her being kidnapped, trafficked, impregnated, sexually assaulted, afflicted with some horrible STD, arrested for marijuana use, converted to Catholicism, wooed by a long-lashed man with a Vespa.
He worried that her GPA would suffer. He worried about her bug bites. He worried so much that when there came a call from Maureen—on his work phone in the middle of the day, her voicemail left in a strangled half whisper—Andrew could taste metal in his mouth, so certain was he that something life altering had happened. And when he heard Lily was in jail, his mind flooded with grim visions of drug use and anti-Americanism and political points to be scored.
What does she mean? Is this true in your life? The story in Cartwheel is very much of our time. Social media plays a big role in Cartwheel. Does this change your view of social media? How do you use social media to share details of your life? What about your family members? Why do you think Jennifer duBois chose to tell the story from four points of view? How does that affect the experience of reading it? Why does Anna think this? The title of the book comes from the cartwheel Lily turned between interrogation sessions.
Why did the author choose this image as significant? In what ways are Lily and Katy different? Is she being fair? Have you, or someone you know, studied abroad? Do you think it benefits college students to visit other countries?
Why do you think Lily wanted to study abroad? What was she looking for? Do you agree? Sebastien is an enigmatic character. What do you think Lily is attracted to about him? Where do you think his addiction for obscuring half-irony comes from?
What consequences does it have for the unfolding of events? The author uses ambiguity to tell this story. How does that affect your understanding of what happened? Which character do you trust the most? Shop 1 Books 2. Add to Wishlist. Sign in to Purchase Instantly. Members save with free shipping everyday! See details. Show More. Reading Group Guide 1. Related Searches.
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Cartwheel: A Novel
Look Inside Reading Guide. Reading Guide. Sep 24, Minutes Buy. When Lily Hayes arrives in Buenos Aires for her semester abroad, she is enchanted by everything she encounters: the colorful buildings, the street food, the handsome, elusive man next door. Five weeks later, Katy is found brutally murdered in their shared home, and Lily is the prime suspect. But who is Lily Hayes? As the case takes shape—revealing deceptions, secrets, and suspicious DNA—Lily appears alternately sinister and guileless through the eyes of those around her: the media, her family, the man who loves her and the man who seeks her conviction.
Cartwheel by Jennifer DuBois
Reviewed by Nina Kenwood. Twenty-one year old Lily Hayes is an American college student studying in Argentina. Five weeks into her exchange program, she is arrested for the murder of her roommate, fellow American student Katy Kellers. Anyone with even a passing knowledge of the real-life Amanda Knox case will recognise it as the inspiration behind this novel. Knox was an American exchange student living in Italy who was arrested for the murder of her roommate in Its biggest strength is the structure, which moves from the perspective of one character to the next, allowing the reader to see events through the eyes of Lily, her father, her boyfriend, her sister and Eduardo, the investigating officer. Everyone sees Lily differently, and everyone has a different opinion on whether she is capable of murder.
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Review: 'Cartwheel' by Jennifer duBois
Search: Title Author Article. Rate this book. Written with the riveting storytelling and the moral seriousness of authors like Emma Donoghue, Adam Johnson, Ann Patchett, and Curtis Sittenfeld, Cartwheel is a suspenseful and haunting novel of an American foreign exchange student arrested for murder, and a father trying to hold his family together. When Lily Hayes arrives in Buenos Aires for her semester abroad, she is enchanted by everything she encounters: the colorful buildings, the street food, the handsome, elusive man next door. Her studious roommate Katy is a bit of a bore, but Lily didn't come to Argentina to hang out with other Americans. Five weeks later, Katy is found brutally murdered in their shared home, and Lily is the prime suspect. But who is Lily Hayes?