On her way to deliver the manuscript to her editor, bestselling novelist Octavia Frost reads a news crawl in Times Square and learns that her rock-star son, Milo, has been arrested for murder. Though she and Milo haven't spoken in years--an estrangement stemming from their tragic past--she drops everything to go to him.
(from pg. 3) " This book is different from anything I've done in the past; in fact, I'm going to puff myself up a little bit and say that it's different from anything anyone has done in the past, though there isn't a writer alive who hasn't thought about it. The Nobodies Album isn't a novel, though ever word of it is fiction. Do you see me talking around it now, building up the suspense? Can you hear the excitement creeping into my voice? Because what I've done here is nothing short of revolutionary, and I want to make sure the impact is clear. What I've done in this book is to revisit the seven novels I've published in the last twenty years and rewrite the ending of each one."
The main narrative is about Octavia reconnecting with her son who is accused of murdering his girlfriend. The murder mystery is not my favorite part, but is clearly developed as a vehicle for the mother and son to bond.
What I loved were the sprinkling of the assortment of imaginary final chapters and their revisions. It is through Octavia's fiction that we feel the pain of her loss and the need to go back and fix what is wrong. The short stories do not take up much room and do not distract from the main plot. The biggest compliment I can pay is that I would love to see Parkhurst turn each of these vignettes into actual novels.
Carolyn Parkhurst writes in a beautiful, literary voice. Late in the novel, Octavia reflects on the impact the deaths of her husband and daughter have had upon her writing:
" Of course that day and all of the days that followed it became part of my work. It didn't feel like a choice. The profanity of death and the sacredness of grief: what more important material is there When, in each of my subsequent books, I took time to pause and consider what we had had and what we had lost, it was something like the Muslim call to prayer. Such a powerful act. Imagine taking the time to stop your ordinary life five times a day in order to turn to something holy. A supplication, a reminder. Bearing witness. A summing-up of belief. And if, in my own life and in my own work, I didn't exactly fall to my knees and touch my forehead to the ground, I performed a sort of internal bowing. I honor you. I'm thinking of nothing else. I bear witness that they were loved. I bear witness that they are not gone from my body, from my life. Make haste to remember them. Make haste toward prayer."
I encourage readers to reacquaint themselves with the folktale The Pied Piper of Hamelin before reading The Nobodies Album. The author's final story-within-the story affectively reworks the old legend with brilliant results. highly recommended
This is a well-written, very inventive book and one I highly recommend.
The story of her relationship with her son is a simple one. It is told in two voices…one the emotional longing of a mother to be reconnected with her son, the only child remaining after her husband and daughter die, and the voice of a writer, seeming to narrate the events as they unfold as if to give her some distance from the happenings to buffer her potential pain. I found Parkhurst’s style very engaging and it held my interest. The rewritten endings of the writer’s novels were not at all distracting. Each one was a little vignette of itself that made perfect sense in the context of the story. In the end, they demonstrated the fact that everyone lives with regrets of some kind. Everyone wonders if we had done things differently would we have had better outcomes. Everyone wishes that they might have the ability to rewrite an ending of their own.
Reading this novel was like existing for a time inside a writer’s head and observing the world and the events while writing a narration, and seeing how clearly the real and the imagined intertwined and intersected.
Overall, I found this novel redeeming and I was left with the optimistic awareness that all anyone wants in life is to be loved and accepted and that our greatest strength lies in giving those we love, just that!
There are excerpts from Octavia’s books which all sound like books I would like to read! This was a story about family, failures, forgiveness and redemption. Through the words from the books Octavia has written you get glimpses into the life shared by her and Milo after the death of half of their family. Now Octavia and Milo need to work together to prove his innocence and repair their broken relationship.
This was a very powerful book that flowed through the beautiful writing; it’s so much more than a mystery but the mystery was a good one. This was my first book by Carolyn Parkhurst but for sure won’t be my last.
4 ½ Stars
Have you ever had the experience of starting a novel and just falling in love with the protagonist right away? This isn’t that novel. When we meet first-person narrator Olivia Frost, the best-selling novelist is flying to New York to drop off her latest manuscript at her editor’s office. She’s a little quirky, a little acerbic. Walking through Times Square, she’s stopped in her tracks by a news feed. Her estranged son, the rock star Milo Frost, has just been arrested for the murder of his girlfriend.
So begins Carolyn Parkhurst’s latest, The Nobodies Album. It’s part conventional murder mystery, part character study, and part rumination on the art and life of a novelist. For me, the book worked on all levels. I won’t go so far as to call it a page-turner, but I was engaged by the mystery plot. The dénouement may have been obvious to some readers, but not to this one. I did warm up to Olivia and found her to be an interestingly complex character to build a novel around. But more than anything, I think, I enjoyed the insights into what it is to be a writer:
“I’ve often wondered if writers are the ones who feel compelled to narrate their lives as they live them, to stand in the shower and wonder whether there’s a less predictable word than ‘lather.’ I used to think it made me a good writer—look at me, honing my craft as I stand here to pour a cup of coffee, drafting and revising my descriptions of the mug, the smell, the sound of the hot splatter! Now I just find it tiresome, though it doesn’t seem to be something I can stop. An end to narration: that’s what I imagine death will be like.”
Olivia isn’t just ruminating on her writing, however. A significant subplot of the novel is her desire to rewrite the endings of all of her previously published works. (And I don’t think you need to be Freud to see the significance in that.) To that end, scattered strategically throughout the novel (in order to create maximum tension and suspense) we are treated to the jacket copy and the original and revised conclusions to Olivia’s seven novels. These interruptions are relatively short, and read more like self-contained stories than the true final pages of books, but the overall effect reminded me of Italo Calvino’s experimental novel If on a Winter’s Night a Traveler. Basically, you’d get caught up in the story snippets and feel slightly jarred when they ended.
Reading back over what I’ve written, I realize my description of this novel sounds a bit busy and overwrought. On the contrary, I thought it all came together really well. It was both entertaining and illuminating.
Oh, and Ms. Parkhurst, if you’re reading this, I’d really like to read the entirety of Olivia’s imaginary novel The Human Slice!
It's been over three months since I read this book, so this review is going to be much shorter than it might have been. I loved this book just as much if not more than The Dogs of Babel. It had a similar quirky feel to it given Octavia's current project of rewriting the ending to all of her previous novels. Having them interspersed into the story at first seemed odd and then it seemed perfect. It also had so much to say about the strength of family in the face of tragedy. There was no miraculous reunion between mother and son. Instead, they both faced the hurt they'd caused one another. They began to understand the way loss can impact their actions. What really made the book for me was how the way in which Octavia tried to reclaim her life after losing her husband and daughter and the way in which this good thing for her harmed her relationship with Milo. Octavia working through that was actually quite beautiful.
The only thing that bothered me with this book was the name Milo. I don't know what it is recently (see review of I'd Know You Anywhere), but if I don't latch on to a character's name, it sticks under my craw. That's my quirk alone I'm sure. Perhaps it's time for a little therapy. LOL!
With a hint of mystery, murder, and plenty of family issues, The Nobodies Album is a winner. It's accessible and thoughtful. I very much appreciated that I could still recognize the author, her style, and hers ingenuity while reading something completely different. I found reading this book rewarding and would highly suggest it.
The story bounces back and forth between the main plot, which follows author, Octavia Frost, whose adult son, rock star Milo, is arrested for murder of his girlfriend and a secondary plot. Those portions are chapters from the author’s novels and are part of a collection called The Nobodies Album, which contains the rewritten endings of her books.
At first it was jarring (at least on the audio) to switch between the fictional stories and the author’s life, but after awhile you get into each of the stories within the larger story. It’s really beautifully told. I found myself forgetting that Octavia isn’t a real author and I wanted to read some of her books, particularly The Human Slice.
Part of me, the cynical side I suppose, thought maybe this was a way for the author to fit a bunch of ideas for books into a single book. But even as I say that, I realized that it still worked. It doesn’t feel forced, it just feels like an author reflecting on her books, her “children.” These things that she created and now wishes she could change. It’s about so much more than changing books though; it’s about living a life of regret and realizing you can’t change what’s already happened.
I’ve never read anything by Parkhurst before, but I kept thinking about what an engrossing voice she has. I went back and forth on my rating, because though I really enjoyed it while I was reading it, I think I’ve grown to like it even more in the past few weeks. I keep thinking about new elements of the story and how they say so much more than they seem to at first. It’s almost like the book is just trying to tell a story, but it can’t help but be profound. It was an incredibly satisfying read.
"Why do we think that knowing the events of someone's life gives us insight into the person they are? Certainly we react to the things that happen to us, we are not unchanged by them, but there is no format to it. You may know that a cascade of water can wear away stone, but you can't predict what shape the rock will take at any given moment."
On her way to deliver her last one, she sees that her estranged son and rock band sensation, Milo Frost has been arrested for murder.
I like the character development in the book, and how the excerpts of her novels show the mirror in her life events. Well written and kept my interest. Even though some rather large plotlines were obvious.
The use of the plot line of Octavia's idea changing the endings to her books really showed a lot of the changes in her and her state of mind. I really enjoyed reading the endings of the fictional books and reflecting on what I knew of Octavia and her relationship with her son and the events that in some ways bound them and in others tore them apart. I looked forward to reading the endings.
A great book for anyone that ever wondered about how a book could reflect its author.
Despite the fact that it's billed as a literary mystery, I found The Nobodies Album surprisingly satisfying. It's true that the mystery wasn't particularly mysterious; there is really only one person who has any motive for murdering Milo's girlfriend Bettina, so even I, notoriously slow when it comes to solving these things, figured it out before the characters did. But I quite enjoyed the story along the way. Many of the other story elements aren't revealed until further into the book, so it takes a while to truly understand how they have all gotten to this point. Seeing things from Octavia's point of view, as an older woman who has made mistakes, tied in with the obvious change of attitude she's had displayed through the old book endings spread throughout the story, made for a very emotive and moving read.
Though beautifully written, Octavia's voice is slightly cold to start. I would encourage you to set that aside until the story gets more involved. She has reasons for acting the way that she does, and those reasons lead to the reveal of some fascinating, complex relationships - exactly what I look for in a book like this. The story takes a close look in particular at the relationships between mothers and their children; how even doing the best you can sometimes isn't quite enough, especially not in the formative years. It's true that Octavia and Milo have some terrible circumstances to deal with, but she realizes that their personalities - which are very similar - will clash while their lives are still normal. She isn't the kind of parent Milo needs, but she's the parent he has left, which leads to problems in their relationship that eventually result in their initial estrangement.
The Nobodies Album is a thoughtful and at times suspenseful literary mystery. Highly recommended to those who enjoy well-written characters and don't mind the occasional break for another thread of the story.
The mystery part of the novel was a little bit unsatisfying -- I had a strong hunch who the killer turned out to be pretty early on -- but the journey was an entertaining one. A couple of the characters were slightly annoying to me -- the mother of the deceased girlfriend was a bit cliche. For as much as she was involved, I would have liked to have seen a little resolution between her and Octavia. I'm also unsure what the point of the high school friend-turned-rock-groupie-turned-facebook-friend was. Beyond her importance to one of the scenes in the book, there wasn't much use for her. All that being said, this was a very entertaining read with a lot to say about parent-child relationships, especially those made more strained by the pain of loss.
I could have loved this book, but the format just didn't work for me. The excerpts from her novels distracted me and made it hard to keep everything straight. I liked the author's writing & I enjoyed Octavia's story. The mystery wasn't much of a mystery. In the end, I was just glad to get the book finished.
Octavia examines her creative work and daily life focusing on observations of coincidence and synchronicity, women and children, loss and endurance, immediate reactions and dissociations, creative drive and withdrawal, and commitment and acceptance. A common thread through these themes is that we are the result of "all those years of accumulated decisions and acts of chance." We can revisit our past and see it in a new light, but rewriting it does not change the effects the past has had on us. Instead we should gain new insight and think about our personal histories but "write" something new to reflect our evolution as individuals.
This very good novel requires concentration on the inserted novel rewrites as they set the stage for the only possible ending to the mystery story. Ms. Parkhurst gives credit in the dedication to her own father for teaching her how to tell a story. She learned her lesson well.
Published by Doubleday
At the request of Doubleday, a HC was sent, at no cost to me, for my honest opinion.
Synopsis (from book's jacket): Octavia Frost is a former bestselling writer in the winter of her career. In the opening pages of this dynamic novel, she arrives in New York to deliver her latest manuscript-a revolutionary new book-to her editor. But as she walks through Times Square , she sees a news crawl announcing that Milo, Frost, her rock-star son, has been arrested for the murder of his girlfriend.
Octavia and Milo haven't spoken in years, an estrangement stemming from a horrific tragedy the two of them endured when he was a child. Yet Octavia cannot help but drop everything and fly to San Francisco to try to make sense of the situation.
The book Octavia was supposed to deliver contains rewritten versions of the final chapters of all her previous novels, in which she has changed her character' outcomes and removed pieces of her personal life that had been hidden within, especially concerning that terrible days years ago, These "last' chapters" and their new revisions are interspersed throughout Carolyn Parkhurst's The Nobodies Album-the scattered puzzle pieces of the troubled past Milo and Octavia share.
Did she drive her son to murder? Did Milo murder anyone at all? And what exactly happened all those years ago? As the novel builds to a stunning reveal, Octavia must consider how her own story will come to a close.
My Thoughts and Opinion: I had a hard time with the beginning of this book. I felt that at times it was very "wordy" and "dry", and not sure where the plot was headed. There were eight (8) chapters that had been written by the character of the author and her ground breaking concept of her newest manuscript, whereas it had the original ending of one of her prior novels and then a new and different ending. Another thing that I felt was hard to relate to, which was stated in the synopsis, and that was the many years of estrangement between the characters of mother and son. It appeared to this reader, and this is my opinion only, that son's response, was unrealistic and too nonchalant when they were reunited after many years of bitterness and being apart. On the other hand, the suspense of trying to piece together the clues of finding the murderer in the cast of characters, what was the underlying reason for the estrangement and a few other issues that I won't mention due to it containing spoilers, is what kept my interest and had me turning the pages. Since I found this novel to be a 50/50 read I will rate it accordingly.
My Rating: 3
I’d been looking forward to reading The Nobodies Album ever since I saw it listed in LibraryThing’s Early Reviewers directory. I did win it from there, but it came much later than expected so I actually read it via the audio version from the library. I really enjoyed the audio version and I’m sure that it is just as good, if not better, in print.
One of the most compelling aspects of The Nobodies Album is Octavia herself. While she’s not the easiest character to like, it is clear that she has a lot of demons in her past and I really wanted to understand her better. Some details of her life are revealed up front, but others emerge slowly throughout the novel. I was particularly interested to find out why she and Milo didn’t speak for so many years and what really happened to her husband and daughter, both of whom died when Milo was a child. These pieces of the puzzle are uncovered slowly, which made me really enjoy the journey of getting to know Octavia.
I probably should tell you that the book Octavia is pitching when she learns of Milo’s situation is also called The Nobodies Album, and it is a compilation of the rewritten endings of all of her novels. In Parkhurst’s novel, Octavia’s endings are interspersed throughout the text, giving the reader a sort of novel-within-a-novel experience, which was interesting for me. On the one hand, I certainly enjoyed getting to know Octavia better through her own writing. But on the other hand, these snippets had a way of distracting me and making me feel impatient to get to the “real” story. So I’m not sure that I loved this device, although it certainly added a little something extra to the book.
The mystery of who killed Bettina really propelled me through the book. I was very interested to find out what really happened, and I had my suspicions, but it was interesting to see it come together and to find out, most importantly, why that person did what he/she did. I found this part of the book to be done really well.
The Nobodies Album is a complex novel that has a lot of moving parts, all of which come together seamlessly in the end. There is a novel within this novel, too, and that made the entire experience just that more interesting. I enjoyed The Nobodies Album quite a bit and I’ll be reading more of Parkhurst’s novels whenever I can get my hands on them.