From the beginning of Cartwheel: A Novel, we are quickly aware that Lily’s roommate Katy, in the home provided by their exchange hosts, has been murdered. And that Lily has been arrested for the murder. The first character we meet is her father, Professor Andrew Hayes.
Narrated from the various perspectives of the people around Lily, from her father, Andrew, her sister, Anna, the prosecuting attorney, Edoardo, to the next-door neighbor Sebastian, we gradually see a picture forming–and there are as many versions of who Lily is as there are people who knew her.
The story moves back and forth, revealing the before and after moments, from the points of view of the above-named individuals.
The portrait that emerges of Lily is one so contradictory that the reader might end up completely undecided about who she was and what, if anything, she may have done. Did she have an obsessive jealousy of her roommate Katy, leading to her murder? Or was she simply so socially inept that her actions and comments during and after seemed to brand her as a perpetrator? What was the significance of the cartwheel, so fixated upon by the media, with various interpretations of what it might have meant? Why was Lily so willing to speak to the prosecutor without the presence of a lawyer? Were her actions naïve or simply stupid blunders? Had her previous experiences of entitlement left her unprepared for the assessments others would make of her?
More questions arise, until, finally, we reach the conclusion of this spellbinding read. A story that approximates the real-life Amanda Knox case, it is an intriguing study of human behavior and the fallibility of perception. A five star read that I recommend for those who enjoy crime novels, as well as for those who are fans of the study of psychological and personality disorders and the effects of the social media upon perception.