THE NOBODIES ALBUM by Carolyn Parkhurst

Book Quote:

“Do I believe it’s possible that Milo killed Bettina? I don’t know; I really don’t. I have no idea when it is that I stopped knowing him utterly, which moment marks my first failure of maternal empathy. And so I examine; I dig. And in the ruins of my memory, I find evidence that supports both versions of history.”

Book Review:

Review by Bonnie Brody (JUL 2, 2010)

Competence is sometimes the enemy of genius. Carolyn Parkhurst, author of The Nobodies Album, is much more than just a competent writer. She is way above that designation for she can light the reader on fire. She took me to a place I’ve rarely entered in literary fiction – a universe of ideas from which spring countless possible ways to make sense of our lives and losses.

The Nobodies Album is about pondering those things said that might have been stated differently. Specifically, the protagonist, Octavia Frost, is a prolific author who is rewriting the last chapters of all her novels. Each final chapter – the original one and the rewritten one – tells us more about the writer’s life and her spectacular griefs and losses. We enter a free-fall with her and watch her life wash away before our eyes.

There is an alternate narrative going on in this novel at the same time as Octavia’s chapters are being rewritten. This narrative is in the here and now and is about the author’s estranged son, Milo. He is a famous rock star who has been accused of killing his lover in a drunken frenzy. Octavia immediately flies out to San Francisco to be with Milo despite the estrangement. We know early on in the book that Octavia has lost her daughter and her husband many years ago, but we are not privy to the details. We only know that Octavia has a fierce love for Milo, her “difficult” child, and she has a visceral need to be with him during this trying time.

The novel is a treasure house of ideas and mysteries. Many of the chapters about Milo and his life are followed by chapters from Octavia’s novels and then her rewriting of these chapters. This is not an easy book to read but it is rich and satisfying and memorable as are the best books in a reader’s life.

It is fascinating to look back at the evolution of this book’s journey from almost free-form fear and loss to the realization that there are things to hold on to, things to grasp for dear life. Octavia, at one point, discusses a woman who is building a “mystery house.” She is a wealthy woman who has lost her husband and daughter. In her grief, she thinks demons are chasing her in her home and she hires workers to constantly build and add on to her house. “She believes that if the house she’s building is ever completed, she’ll die.” In a sense, Octavia Frost’s rewriting of her chapters is her way to keep working and hold on to life. Will she find peace and rest? I can only encourage you to read this novel, the best one I’ve read this year.

AMAZON READER RATING: stars-4-0from 54 readers
PUBLISHER: Doubleday (June 15, 2010)
REVIEWER: Bonnie Brody
AUTHOR WEBSITE: Carolyn Parkhurst
EXTRAS: Reading Guide and Excerpt
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July 2, 2010 В· Judi Clark В· No Comments
Tags: ,  В· Posted in: 2010 Favorites, California, Contemporary, Family Matters, Reading Guide, Unique Narrative

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