Cartwheel is a new novel drawing its inspiration from the Amanda Knox case. duBois explores our views of this media sensation through a fictionalized version of Knox’s story, set in Buenos Aires. When Amanda Knox’s interview with Diane Sawyer aired, and her book Waiting To Be Heard was released, I was part of a few speculative conversations, and our ultimate conclusions held some doubt. Was she mistreated? Was her trial unfair? Did she make some bad choices? Was she innocent? What happens to the public around these media frenzies?
Cartwheel isn’t a tell all, a Dominick Dunne, or a Vincent Bugliosi book; it is an exploration of the psychology and motivations of people, told from a variety of perspectives, using a murder as the prompt. Yes there are two exchange students, roommates, and one is murdered. There is a boyfriend, there is some bizarre behavior, but this novel is perhaps a statement on people’s capacity for evil, and if so, their capacity for goodness. The author also seems to ask how race, gender, age and privilege play into the case. duBois says ” people can look at the same moment and see entirely different things…Cartwheel was inspired by my interest in the kind of cross-cultural incomprehension that can happen anywhere.” These themes are explored more intellectually and less emotionally, without a clear judgement. Cartwheel is suspenseful and intriguing version of an ugly story; the characters are well-developed, and the writing is excellent. I think readers and book groups will find it very discussable.