Tuesday, August 3, 2010
Do you ever look back at your life and how you lived it, and wish you had made better decisions? Do you wish you could have a "do over"?
Octavia Frost, a successful author, widow, and mother to her estranged adult son Milo, is living her life in a sea of regret. Years ago, a tragic event claims the life of Octavia's husband and daughter, leaving mother and son to wallow in survivor's guilt. Octavia throws her energy into a career as a novelist, projecting the hell of her life into a long line of dark novels that are semi-autobiographical. After four years of alienation with Milo, she decides that her next literary project will be to re-write the endings of all of her books, a subconscious attempt at setting things right.
On her way to turning in her manuscript of this project (entitled "The Nobodies Album"), she learns that her son, now a front man for a popular band, has been accused of murdering his girlfriend. She races cross country to offer her support, not knowing if it will be accepted. She also embarks on a journey to discover the truth behind the murder charges, the pursuit of forgiveness, the exploration of self, and the quest to heal the decades-old wounds between mother and son.
At this point, you may be muttering to yourself "yeah, yeah, family tragedy, dysfunction, angst, blah, blah, blah". Wouldn't blame you. Haven't we heard this all before a thousand times? Yes, but not quite in a package such as this. I love clever and unique, and this is so very much clever and unique. Let me try to explain.
First, the writing is stellar. It is smart, insightful, and real. The voice effectively communicates to us through tone and inference that this is a woman who is sharp but tired, who is living with loss, who is feeling her middle-age, who recognizes her faults, and misses her son.
The book moves back and forth between Octavia's present involvement with her son and his predicament, and excerpts from The Nobodies Album. As Octavia attempts to find a toehold in her son's chaotic situation, we intermittently get a peek into her mental state in her novels' original endings, and where she wants to be through her revised endings. I don't believe many authors could pull off such a subtle but impactful study of the human spirit, contained in such a clever package.
Layered in between all of this awesomeness are two mysteries. What really happened to Octavia's husband and daughter? And who really killed Milo's girlfriend? The answer to the first question shook me to the core, and came just a leeeeeetle bit too close for comfort. I had to get up and walk that one off. The answer to the second question is not an obvious one, and has a respectable and satisfying conclusion.
Most importantly, at the heart of the book you will find the soul of a mother who loves her baby...a fierce protector, flawed but good intentions, and a desperation for love.
I, along with half of the book blogging universe I think, was persuaded to read this book by Jen of Devourer of Books. You can read her most excellent review here.
4.5 out of 5 stars