REVIEW: The Nobodies Album by Carolyn Parkhurst

Compact Disc, 9 disks (11.5 hours)
Published January 1st 2010 by Random House Audio Publishing Group
ISBN: 030771473X (ISBN13: 9780307714732)
primary language: English
4.5 stars overall / 5 stars audio narration

Goodreads Synopsis:
From the bestselling author of The Dogs of Babel comes a dazzling literary mystery about the lengths to which some people will go to rewrite their past. 

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, removing clues about her personal life concealed within, 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 that tragic day—she drops everything to go to him.

The “last chapters” of Octavia’s novel are layered throughout The Nobodies  Album—the scattered puzzle pieces to her and Milo’s dark and troubled past. 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 this story will come to a close.

Universally praised for her candid explorations of the human psyche, Parkhurst delivers an emotionally gripping and resonant mystery about a mother and her son, and about the possibility that one can never truly know another person. 

My Thoughts:
This is as rich a novel of the intricacies of family dynamics as I have read in a long time. Carolyn Parkhurst has hit one out of the park, creating a story that explores the complicated mental, emotional and even spiritual turmoil that ensues when a family experiences a terrible, unexpected tragedy. Not only is this a study in the intricate construct of family, but it is also an unusual murder mystery as well as a long overdue catalyst for healing Olivia and Milo’s damaged relationship. Parkhurst shows how it sometimes takes extreme circumstances – a second tragic occurrence, for instance – to bring about catharsis and redemption.

The second thing that Parkhurst does extraordinarily well in this novel is weave excerpts from the protagonist author’s books into the real time story. This is particularly effective not only in moving the story toward a revelation of the original tragedy, but also in showcasing how Octavia uses her writing as a means of processing pain and healing. And, as she and Milo cautiously navigate toward a reconciliation, each comes to understand the other’s need to use their art – their careers – at first to function, then to heal, and finally to honor their loved ones.

Anyone looking for a book that is complex, unusual, and deeply satisfying will find that this book will exceed all expectations.

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