The Nobodies Album

Monday, July 12, 2010

Title: The Nobodies Album
Author: Carolyn Parkhurst
Pages: 320
Genre: Fiction
Publisher: Knopf Doubleday (Random House)
Release Date: June 15, 2010

I thoroughly enjoyed Carolyn Parkhurst's first 2 books, Dogs of Babel and Lost and Found, which were both fast paced, light, and intriguing reads, so I was excited when I heard she had a new book coming out. The idea was certainly unique; the different nature took a bit to get used to but was engaging after that.

Octavia Frost is the best-selling author of 7 novels who has just traveled to New York City to personally hand in the manuscript for what she hopes will be her next novel. In an unprecedented twist, Octavia has changed the endings to all of her novels and compiled them in her new book she's entitled The Nobodies Album in reference to a conversation she once had with her famous rock star son, Milo Frost; the book is also an indirect attempt to re-initiate a relationship with her son with whom she has been estranged for the past 4 years for reasons that are cleverly intertwined with the other plot points.

Upon walking through Times Square, Octavia is gobsmacked when she reads on the news ticker (I assume above the Good Morning America studio -- go GMA! check out my love for GMA and all things New York here) that her son has just been arrested for the murder (MURDER?!) of his girlfriend, Bettina Moffett. Octavia quickly drops her manuscript with her agent, canceling lunch, and rushes out to California where she hopes for the chance to support her son and prove what must be his innocense.

Mingled within the story of Octavia and her son, are the original and revised endings to her previous novels. Each novel is introduced with the title and year of publishing followed by the synopsis from the jacket cover. We then read the entire original ending, and, after that, the parts she changed. This was initially difficult to get used to because of its choppy nature in the narrative and also because I didn't find most of the first featured novel that interesting. After that, though, I was surprisingly entranced within the endings of the other stories, finding that I almost forgot I was reading a slice of a novel within another novel.

The story of Octavia and her son, however, was even more interesting than those endings and was the driving force that kept me hooked. Parkhurst evoked such genuine emotion in her character, Octavia, that I felt as though I were reading the deeply personal reflections of a mother's struggles to reconnect with her son combined with her regrets over her actions that led to their estrangement; the emotions were so genuine that for the majority of the novel I confused myself on more than one occasion, feeling as though I were reading non-fiction. She describes, without necessarily stating bluntly, the way in which she walks on thin ice around her son for fear that if she says or does something wrong she'll be alienated from him again. In addition to the strained nuances of the mother/son relationship, Octavia delves deeply into the life of a writer and cogitates on what it's like to be a writer and how each book is and is not an extension of the authors themselves.

The Nobodies Album was an interesting and satisfying read. While reading it I felt like though I enjoyed it, it wasn't as much as I did with her previous novels. But the more I've thought about it since completing this book, the more I realized how well-done this novel was and how it deserves it's own consideration rather than being compared to the other novels. The one thing I didn't quite catch on to was what each of the stories had to do, if anything, with the primary storyline. They all related in some way to the author's life, but I feel like maybe I missed some of the significance.

Regardless, a good read -- Carolyn Parkhurst has a part of her site dedicated to this book... it's set up like the website for Octavia Frost, and they even have covers to some of the novels we read about in The Nobodies Album. It's sort of fun... check it out!


Nicole (Linus's Blanket) said...

I haven't read any Parkhurst before, though I do believe that I have the Dogs one. I am really excited to read the The Nobodies Album after such kudos from Every Day I Write the Book and Devourer of Books. It only helps that the book has you reconsidering it. The ones that won't let you stop thinking about them are the best ones.

Trisha said...

I enjoy books that include seemingly extraneous pieces along with the primary storyline, so I find this very interesting. Thanks for the suggestion!

Zibilee said...

This sounds like like a great read, and reminds me a bit of The Thirteenth Tale. I love books that have aspects of unique storytelling in them, and the novels within a novel concept really intrigues me. I must get a copy of this book!! Thanks for the awesome review. This book sounds just about perfect for me!

Stephanie aka The Stark Raving Bibliophile said...

This sounds very interesting to me. I like the idea of blending her revised writings into the narrative, even if the execution is sometimes a bit choppy.

Jenny said...

Nicole -- I found myself wanting to pick it back up to read more and would then realize I was done already, LOL!

Trisha - I never really thought about it, but I do too. It was sort of neat, and it made me think about it too... like how would I feel if a favorite author did that with all her books.

Zibilee -- I hope you like it!!!

Stephanie -- It really ended up being only as choppy as it has to be when you're switching viewpoints. I ended up liking how it worked out!

Gayle Weiswasser said...

I enjoyed your review! Agree about the fast pacing and the reflection that comes afterwards. This was definitely a good book!!

Michelle (Red Headed Book Child) said...

Sounds complex and interesting. I've only read Dogs of Babel by her and really enjoyed it.

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