Tuesday, August 3, 2010

The Nobodies Album - Carolyn Parkhurst (Kindle)


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




19 comments:

farmlanebooks said...

I was sent a review copy of this book last week, but I hadn't noticed it in the blogging world before - I guess I was put off by the musical elements. You've persuaded me that I probably will enjoy reading it. Thank you!

bermudaonion said...

I was all excited because I thought I had a copy of this book, but I don't. Now I have to add it to my ever growing wish list. Thanks, I think.

S. Krishna said...

I have heard so many great things about this book and I've had a review copy for months! I really need to get around to reading it.

Zibilee said...

I have been reading great reviews of this book all over the place! It does sound excellent and like something that I would like a whole lot. I love stories within stories too...This one sounds just about perfect to me!

Jo-Jo said...

What a great review...sounds like one that I need to add to my list!

Molly said...

Probably would have passed on this one based on the title and the cover - but your review has changed my mind :)

I think I would have to be a certain frame of mind to truly enjoy this book though, so perhaps I will wait until back-to-school hooplah has settled down.

Jen - Devourer of Books said...

Yay! I'm so glad you loved it too! It is always a little nerve-wracking when my gushing about a book inspires a bunch of other people to read it. I was pretty confident that "The Nobodies Album" would hold up, though, and that definitely seems to be the case!

Julie P. said...

Ok Ok.. I can take a hint. Moving this one up! Great review!

The Bumbles said...

Hmmm - fiction or mystery? How do I categorize this on my To Read shelves?! Thanks for introducing it to me.

rhapsodyinbooks said...

This sounds very good. I'll have to see if I can turn up a copy of it!

Iliana said...

I've seen some mixed reviews on this one but I'm intrigued so it's going on my list. I love family drama stuff so this sounds perfect!

Carrie K. said...

I just loaded this onto my MP3 player in audio to start after I finish The Help and Red Hook Road - can't wait!

Dawn @ sheIsTooFondOfBooks said...

"the soul of a mother who loves her baby" says so much. I think the fierce mama bear (in human form) is a wonderful character.

heidenkind said...

"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"?"

Gad, who HASN'T??

Nymeth said...

I think that at this point stories we haven't read before are what's rare. It's what each author does wit them that counts, and it sounds like Caroyln Parkhurst's approach did make it unique.

Peppermint Ph.D. said...

Adding this one to my neverending wish list and overflowing bookshelves :)

Melissa M said...

Your review has me convinced to give this one a try. I read Dogs of Babel and thought it was a little odd, but I trust you!

Jenners said...

Oh, I'm so excited ... I just found out today I won a review copy of this from LibraryThings Early Reviewers!! I loved her "Dogs of Babel" book.

Alice Teh said...

I like stories within stories and this one appeals to me. I haven't seen this before but I'm glad you reviewed it here. Thanks, Sandy!