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The Nobodies Album by Carolyn Parkhurst
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The Nobodies Album

by Carolyn Parkhurst

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4635634,678 (3.72)44
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.… (more)

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Showing 1-5 of 57 (next | show all)
Successful novelist Octavia Frost is on her way to deliver a new manuscript to her publisher when she glimpses the news headline: her son Milo, whose rock music has achieved more fame than Octavia's novels, has been arrested for the murder of his girlfriend. That's the book's skeleton, but to summarize it based on plot is to ignore its essence. Octavia's newest work, which Ms. Parkhurst inserts piece by piece between the narrative's chapters, isn't truly new; it's a collection of her previous novels' endings, rewritten. And this murder mystery isn't truly focused on whether Milo is the murderer; it's focused on an estranged mother's charging and tip-toeing through a crisis-born breach in her son's wall. Why haven't Octavia and Milo spoken in four years? What happened the day half their family died? Can Octavia be the mother now that she failed to be then?

As always, Ms. Parkhurst's prose doesn't disappoint, and her dialogue shines. Some reviews consider Octavia's new project, The Nobodies Album, to be an intrusion on the primary narrative. I'm first in line to rail at literary gimmicks, but this structure worked for me. The premise outstrips the execution somewhat: the alleged novel "conclusions" actually read like overly summarized short stories. However, I don't see how else Parkhurst could have written them without losing her readers, and they do achieve their purpose: to reveal pieces of the protagonist's soul.

I didn't find the fame-cloistered secondary cast compelling, and the murder mystery wasn't anything profound (and I must still be missing something about the sugar bowl...?). But I'm glad to have met Milo and especially Octavia. She isn't always likable, but she is consistent and understandable. She acknowledges her failures even as she defends them. Through Octavia's introspective, emotionally stilted, self-conscious, desperate voice, THE NOBODIES ALBUM explores the brittleness and strength of family and the mystery of human perspective. If half-stars were allowed, this book would get 3.5. ( )
  AmandaGStevens | Mar 2, 2019 |
Ever since Edgar Allan Poe, who invented the detective story, we have known that a good murder mystery can also be good literature. Even so we tend to forget, isolating mysteries into their own genre and their own sections of book stores and libraries. Once in a while someone like Carolyn Parkhurst comes along to remind us of what we already knew.

Her 2010 novel “The Nobodies Album” is a low-key murder mystery with literary aspirations (just as her previous novel “The Dogs of Babel” was a sci-fi/horror story with literary aspirations). The narrator and heroine is Octavia Frost, a successful novelist who is rethinking her career just as she is rethinking her life. The new book she is about to deliver to her publisher is actually a collection of revised endings to all of her previous books. Couldn't they have happier endings?

Her own life, for all her literary success, has been less than happy. Her husband and daughter died accidental deaths some years before, and for the past four four years she had been estranged from her son, Milo, now one of the country's most popular rock stars. He had read something in one of her novels that, for good reason, he took very personally.

It takes a murder to bring mother and son back together. Milo has been arrested for killing his girlfriend. He was intoxicated and remembers little about that night, but he is discovered with her blood all over him and no other person in the house.

Octavia doesn't see herself as an amateur sleuth and doesn't act like one. She is just a mother who doesn't believe her own son could do such a thing and so looks for any other possible explanation for what happened that night. Can this story, too, have a different ending than the one that seems so obvious?

This idea of changing endings replays again and again throughout the novel, including when an aging rock star talks about rerecording some of his biggest hits. Can you go back and change what has already taken place, or must an ending be changed before the ends comes?

In the end, “The Nobodies Album” succeeds better as a murder mystery than as a literary work, yet both attempts are hindered by Parkhurst's inclusion of the last chapters of Octavia Frost's novels as well as the proposed revisions. Some of these are interesting enough, but they all interrupt her story more than they contribute to it. ( )
  hardlyhardy | Jan 2, 2018 |
3.5 stars

Octavia Frost is a successful author, with eight published novels. She has decided she’d like to rewrite the endings for all of them, and publish that as a collection. Her rock star/musician son, Milo, and she have been estranged for four years, but she feels she must go to him when he is arrested on suspicion of murdering his fiancee.

I much preferred the mother/son story to the multiple books and rewritten endings by Octavia Frost. I listened to the audio and often missed too much of those rewritten stories to really follow them. I did enjoy the murder mystery, though, and Milo and Octavia coming closer together again. ( )
  LibraryCin | Aug 25, 2017 |
Olivia Frost lost her husband and young daughter in a terrible accident, many years ago. More recently, she lost her grown-up rock star son, too, when he suddenly stopped talking to her. So now she tries to content herself with her life and her writing, though all her novels seem, inevitably, to feature dead children, and lately she's decided she wants to re-write the endings of them all. Then her son is accused of murdering his girlfriend, and she feels compelled to reach out to him.

It's a very multi-layered novel. Mostly, it's a sort of introspective drama about motherhood and grief. But it's also a little bit of a murder mystery, although I imagine anyone reading it only for that part of things is going to be a little disappointed. And it's also a slightly meta-feeling exploration of writing and storytelling. It all works together really well, I think. Not flawlessly, perhaps, but very successfully, nonetheless. I feel like I've been floundering around a bit lately, trying to find the right book to distract myself from a slightly stressed-out mood, to give me something absorbing to think about. Turns out, this was exactly what I needed. Whether or not it's perfect, I liked it a lot, and I'm definitely going to be seeking out more books from this author. ( )
  bragan | Nov 21, 2016 |
A gripping, thought-provoking exploration of the role of narrative in defining our sense of self and the way both writers and readers grapple with the definition of truth. What maeks a believable story? What makes a satisfying ending? Oh, and who killed Bettina? ( )
  SaraSkatheld | Sep 28, 2016 |
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