Cartwheel: Book summary and reviews of Cartwheel by Jennifer duBois

Cartwheel
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  • Published in USA  Sep 2013,
    384 pages.

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Book Summary

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? It depends on who's asking. 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.

Jennifer duBois's debut novel, A Partial History of Lost Causes, was a finalist for the PEN/Hemingway Award for Debut Fiction and was honored by the National Book Foundation's 5 Under 35 program. In Cartwheel, duBois delivers a novel of propulsive psychological suspense and rare moral nuance. Who is Lily Hayes? What happened to her roommate? No two readers will agree. Cartwheel will keep you guessing until the final page, and its questions about how much we really know about ourselves will linger well beyond.

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!

Some of the recent comments posted about Cartwheel. Join the discussion! You can see the full discussion here.

"The things that go wrong are rarely the things you’ve thought to worry about." Why do you think the author makes such a pronouncement at the beginning of the novel? What does she mean? Is this true in your life?
Instead of worrying, I like to plan. - judyk

Cover design.
I bought this book and did not receive an advanced edition. I do not particularly find the cover appealing. If I had walked past this book in the book store and had not read any reviews recommending it, I am not sure I would have been interested. - rebeccar

Did knowing the Amanda Knox trial outcome influence you?
The ambiguity at the end parallels the ambiguity of the Knox case. I felt as though this book was just a stolen story. It really bothered me. - malindan

Did you believe in Lily's innocence...or guilt? Why?
This was left unclear.....intentionally. I think most readers would be swayed by whether they liked or disliked Lily.......just as people attribute guilt or innocence to Amanda Knox. - malindan

Do you believe the whole story comes out at Lily’s trial?
I do not know if the whole story was suppose to come out at the trial. It seems that the justice procedure in place is a little different from ours and that a lot of "decisions/perceptions" were determined before the "trial". But either way I do not... - beverlyj

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"While muddying the waters of right and wrong is almost always a valiant cause in literature, this novel reads more like an intellectual exercise in examining all the different angles rather than an emotional engagement with human beings." - Publishers Weekly

"Starred Review. [DuBois] does an excellent job of creating and maintaining a pervasive feeling of foreboding and suspense... An acute psychological study of character that rises to the level of the philosophical... Cartwheel is very much its own individual work of the author's creative imagination."—Booklist

"Jennifer duBois, a writer whose fierce intelligence is matched only by her deep humanity, hits us with a marvelous second novel that intertwines a gripping tale of murder abroad with an intimate story of family heartbreak. Every sentence crackles with wit and vision. Every page casts a spell." - Maggie Shipstead, New York Times bestselling author of Seating Arrangements

"Like its namesake, Cartwheel will upend you; rarely does a novel this engaging ring so true. Inscribed with the emotional intimacy of memory, this is one story you will not soon forget." - T. Geronimo Johnson, author of Hold It 'Til It Hurts

"Cartwheel is so gripping, so fantastically evocative, that I could not, would not, put it down. Jennifer duBois is a writer of thrilling psychological precision." - Justin Torres, New York Times bestselling author of We the Animals

"Jennifer duBois's Cartwheel seized my attention and held it in a white-knuckled grip until I found myself reluctantly and compulsively turning its final pages very late at night...Jennifer duBois has captured the sleazy leer of lurid crime and somehow twisted it into a work of art." - Benjamin Hale, author of The Evolution of Bruno Littlemore

The information about Cartwheel shown above was first featured in "The BookBrowse Review" - BookBrowse's online-magazine that keeps our members abreast of notable and high-profile books publishing in the coming weeks. In most cases, the reviews are necessarily limited to those that were available to us ahead of publication. If you are the publisher or author of this book and feel that the reviews shown do not properly reflect the range of media opinion now available, please send us a message with the mainstream media reviews that you would like to see added.

Reader Reviews

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Rated 3 of 5 of 5 by Diane S.
Cartwheel
Had quite a while to consider my rating on this book and why so much of it just did not gel with me. I never paid much in depth attention to the Amanda Knox story, so my knowledge of said story is just bare bones. So while this is being compared to that case or said to be the trigger for this novel, I have no way of knowing. What I know is that there were two women, college exchange students and one somewhat hunky neighbor, having relationships with both and than of course there is the murder of one of the girls and the other is said to have been the perpetrator.

So basically yes, this book does follow those lines, but where it deviated from the story I cannot comment. The writing in this book is very good, but something bugged me about it, not the story itself but the way it is written. I never really engaged with the characters or the story, never became emotionally vested in the outcome. Felt like it was just a story I was reading, or a recitation of facts without depth and only scratching the surface.

Anyway had a very hard time rating this, because on one hand the writing was very good and on the other, the style of the story just did not work.
Others may not have the same difficulty, it is certainly of popular interest and not all readers have the same reaction.

Rated 4 of 5 of 5 by dlpiano
cartwheel
A murder mystery written around a families emotions as they unraveled and became exposed to each other. I found myself hurrying to finish this book so I could find out WHY the characters acted in certain way and how they would react as new information was disclosed. Would they still love each other? make excuses for each other? forgive each other? Great character insight and a fast read.

Rated 4 of 5 of 5 by Carole V.
compelling
I received and ARC of this book; and found that it was 'loosely inspired by the Amanda Knox story". I was skeptical, as I had tired of the whole drama; and ignored mention of it when I could.

I found this book to be a compelling character study; and devoured the book. I especially enjoyed the way the book switched between different points of view. Just really a well written book.

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Author Information

Jennifer duBois Author Biography

Photo: Ilana Panich-Linsman

Jennifer duBois's A Partial History of Lost Causes was one of the most acclaimed debuts of 2012. It was a finalist for the PEN/Hemingway Award for Debut Fiction, winner of the California Book Award for First Fiction and the Northern California Book Award for Fiction, and O: The Oprah Magazine chose it as one of the ten best books of the year.

DuBois was also named one of the National Book Foundation's 5 Under 35 authors. A graduate of the Iowa Writers' Workshop, duBois recently completed a Stegner Fellowship at Stanford University.

Her second novel is Cartwheel (Oct 2013). Originally from Massachusetts, she now lives in Texas.

Author Interview
Link to Jennifer duBois's Website

Name Pronunciation
Jennifer duBois: Doo-Bwah

Other books by Jennifer duBois at BookBrowse
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