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Monday, July 12, 2010

"Nobodies" Perfect

The Nobodies Album
Carolyn Parkhurst
Doubleday, 2010
Adult Fiction

Bestselling novelist Octavia Frost has just completed her latest book—a revolutionary novel in which she has rewritten the last chapters of all her previous books in order to remove any clues about her personal life -- especially a horrific tragedy that befell her family years ago. On her way to deliver the manuscript to her editor, Octavia 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 him reading one of her novels, she can’t resist traveling to California in order to help him in any way she can.

Once in California, Octavia is shocked to learn that Milo can’t remember what happened the night of the murder. She takes it upon herself to clear Milo of the murder charge, and in doing so she realizes that her son may indeed have killed his girlfriend. As she sorts through the details of his life, she finds herself reliving many of her own memories of his growing years, and once again regretting her own actions and decisions. Soon she realizes that she has the power to rewrite the ending of her relationship story with Milo just like she rewrote the endings to her own novels.

The “last chapters” of Octavia’s novels are layered throughout the story, and each of these alternative endings reveal clues to the “mystery” of the family tragedy that affected Octavia and Milo so deeply. Readers will either enjoy these endings or feel it adds another layer of understanding to the story – or they will hate the interruptions to the narrative and skip over them to rejoin the plot in action. It would be a mistake to skip these vignettes, however, because each one illustrates something that Octavia wishes she could change about her own past. Who doesn’t have regrets about decisions and choices that were made, friendships that were nourished or neglected, children that were overprotected or slipped through our fingers? How many of us get a second chance to heal the rifts that come between us and our loved ones? Octavia is tiptoeing around the edge of her failed relationship with her son, the only family she has left, hoping she can get close enough to him in order to make amends for past mistakes.

Don’t get too excited about the murder mystery aspect to this novel; it is slight and anticlimactic. Furthermore, it really doesn’t matter whether Miles committed the murder or not. What matters is the kind of future Miles and Octavia will manage to forge from this tragedy in order to heal the damage that was caused by the long-ago tragedy. I enjoyed watching the characters struggle and learn from their mistakes, because I could identify with the themes of loss, grief, hurt and regret. This novel shows it’s never too late to rediscover the truth about oneself, even if this truth is hidden in fiction.

Place this book on reserve at the Mesa Public Library today!

Rating (see key below):

Other books by this author:

Lost and Found (2006) – my personal favorite!
The Dogs of Babel (2003)

Other titles you may like:

The Distinguished Guest by Sue Miller
Lily Maynard is proud, chilly, difficult, and has become a famous writer at age seventy-two. Now, stricken with Parkinson's disease and staying with her architect son Alan, Lily must cope with her fading powers as well as with disturbing memories of the events that estranged her from

The Ghost Orchid by Carol Goodman
Journeying to the luxurious Bosco estate in upstate New York to work on a book based on the troubled events that took place there in the summer of 1893, novelist Ellis Brooks uncovers the dark secrets of the wealthy Latham family.

The Perfect Reader by Maggie Pouncey
At the news of her father’s death, Flora quits her big-city magazine job and returns to Darwin, the quaint New England town where she grew up, to fulfill her obligation as her father’s literary executor. It seems he was secretly writing poems at the end of his life—love poems to a girlfriend Flora didn’t know he had. Flora soon discovers that this woman has her own claims on Lewis’s poetry and his memory, and Flora must try to figure out many things: the fate of the poems, the girlfriend who wants a place in her life, her memories of her parents’ divorce, and her own uncertain future.

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