Book Review: Cartwheel: A Novel

Cartwheel by Jennifer Dubois

Cartwheel: A Novel by Jennifer Dubois is her second novel. Dubios has a BA in political science and philosophy from Tufts University. She has also earned her MFA in fiction from Iowa Writer’s Work shop. Her work has been published in several publications and her first novel was selected for Five Under Thirty-Five program from the National Book Foundation. Currently, Dubios teaches in the MFA program at Texas State University in San Marcos.

Contemporary fiction is not usually my first choice to read, but this book came highly recommended. I have found a few winners in the past because, after all, thirty years from now this is where the new classic books will be selected from. Cartwheelhas all the makings of a great story: Murder in a foreign country. A dysfunctional family who tries to come together when a second tragedy strikes. A workaholic police investigator. A cocky, rich young man. An emotionally stunted protagonist. College students. A bar.

This book should be great, but it turns out to be rather ok. The writing will hold you into the story and the reader will or should be able to piece together the story. The informed reader, will however, come to the realization that with minor differences they have heard this story before. It would seem that this story should come with a “Based on a true story” or “Names and places have been changed to protect the innocent.” What I am hinting at is the Amanda Knox story. The American student arrested for killing her roommate in Italy and trying to blame the crime on a bartender. I am not saying that Dubois had any intention of rewriting the Amanda Knox story, but I could not shake that feeling.

I liked the book and the story. The writing is great. The characters were all believable. All the characters were well developed. I just couldn’t help feeling I was reading a recycled news story. Despite that nagging feeling, it is a good read. For those unfamiliar with the Amanda Knox story is will be an very good read.

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