The Nobodies Album: Book summary and reviews of The Nobodies Album by Carolyn Parkhurst

The Nobodies Album

By Carolyn Parkhurst

The Nobodies Album
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  • Published in USA  Jun 2010,
    320 pages.

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Book Summary

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.

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Media Reviews

"Starred Review. In a stunning blend of craft and ingenuity, Parkurst makes the excerpts far more than a mere metafictional exercise..." - Booklist "Parkhurst's voice sucks the reader in immediately - the gift of a real storyteller..." - Publishers Weekly

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Reader Reviews

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Rated 3 of 5 of 5 by Wendy R. (Riverside, CA)
Disappointing on One Hand, but Enjoyable on the Other
Octavia's world evolves around her writing, and she often looks at life through the lens of a story unfolding. She has regrets about the past, especially about her relationship with her rock star son, Milo. When Milo was nine, his father and sister died tragically, leaving just him and Octavia. She and he are a lot of alike and constantly butted heads as he was growing up. She wasn't there for him as much as she would have liked, lost in her own grief and not quite sure how to handle his.

While there is a mystery aspect to the book, the main thrust of the story is of Octavia's reflection on her own life and of her relationship with her son. She is getting to know him again, as if for the first time. The author did a good job of capturing Octavia's thoughts and feelings. I wasn't sure what to think of Octavia for most of the book, but she showed a lot of growth as the novel progressed. By the end, I quite liked her.

It took me a while to get into the novel. Interspersed throughout are excerpts of Octavia's latest writing project, a book called The Nobodies Album. Octavia has taken to rewriting the endings to all her novels and hopes to publish them in an anthology of sorts. Had she written those same stories today, how differently would they have ended? This was her opportunity to change the past, so to speak. I was less than impressed with the excerpts, however, and think that the novel would have come off fine without them, perhaps even better if only for the lack of distraction. The same connections the author made in the excerpts were made in the actual story as well. Although, I will say the excerpts got better towards the end.

There were several passages I wish now I had jotted down to share with you, phrases and ideas that caught my fancy. As a person who loves stories, I was drawn to Octavia's observations and take on life, especially in regards to her writing--how it affected her life and how her life affected her writing.

While I enjoyed The Nobodies Album in the end and came to care for all of the characters, I still felt a bit disappointed when all was said and done. I do think I'd like to give the author another try. She clearly has a way with words and is able to get inside the minds of her characters.

Rated 3 of 5 of 5 by Paige D. (Reno, NV)
The Nobodies Album by Carolyn Parkhurst
Almost famous novelist Octavia Frost and her rocker son, MIlo, have been estranged for a number of years following a horrific family tragedy. Not until Milo's headline-making arrest for the murder of his girlfriend does Octavia reappear in her son's life, coming to his rescue. I actually liked the exploration of Octavia and MIlo's relationship. In between chapters throughout the book, Octavia rewrites the endings of her novels to compose her latest book - "The Nobodies Album". I found these interspersed rewrites distracting, and dreaded when the next rewrite would appear. Either I completely missed how these rewrites were supposed to further explain Octavia and Milo's relationship, or Parkhurst didn't do such a great job of making Octavia's rewrites relevant to the story. I was left disappointed, especially since I loved Parkhurst's earlier novel, "The Dogs of Babel". Readers will finish "The Nobodies Album" somewhat confused and wanting more.

Rated 5 of 5 of 5 by Christine P. (Pleasanton, CA)
Second Chances?
I love this book but it’s hard to put into words what would make you want to read it. Carolyn Parkhurst does not disappoint her readers giving us another novel with excellent writing. The Nobodies Album is rich with the kind of writing that makes you want to sigh when you get to the end of a page and wanting more when you finish the novel. Basically the book is about being able to rewrite your past. It’s a book within a book, part mystery and part exploration of the relationships we hold dear and the ones that we didn’t get to finish, AND what if we were given the chance to put things right. It’s a truly exceptional read.

Rated 2 of 5 of 5 by Sue M. (Novato, CA)
Didn't work for me
Though I wanted to like this book and did enjoy some aspects of it, overall I didn't care for it. The sections of the book that were new-endings to Octavia's books were odd and many I could not connect to the plot of the main story. Wanted to know the story of Octavia and her family and its tragedy, but by the end the book just fizzled out for me.

Rated 4 of 5 of 5 by Deborah C. (Seattle, WA)
A most unusual book!
The book alternates between (1) telling the story of author Octavia Frost and (2) excerpts from her books with alternate endings to those books. I really enjoyed the dual tracks of the story and thought the premise was interesting--what if authors could rewrite the endings to their books?

The main story captured my interest, partly because I kept trying to figure out whether I really liked Octavia. I eventually decided that I did, although she wasn't always the most sympathetic character.

I thought the author did a great job of integrating the two story tracks; throughout the book you learned more about how Octavia's life influenced her books and vice-versa.

This book really gave me a lot to think about, and I think it would be great for book clubs because it raises so many interesting topics of discussion.

Rated 5 of 5 of 5 by Eileen Elkinson
Learning from the past for the present....
Olivia Frost is a successful novelist who has come up with an imaginative idea for her most recent book. It is a compilation of the endings of her previous books, rewritten the way she thinks they should have concluded. Her general equanimity is rattled when she finds out her estranged son Milo is being held as a murder suspect.
The present tale of Olivia and Milo’s attempt to establish a new relationship and the “short stories,” alternate with each chapter.

Although the flow is somewhat interrupted by these “revised endings” if you allow them their own significance you will find yourself appreciating them immensely.
The book is about looking the truth in the face, accepting it and making it work for you. Accepting that your past, the past, need not be rewritten to have a satisfying outcome.

This was an enjoyable read and I recommend it.

...15 more reader reviews

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Author Information

Carolyn Parkhurst Author Biography

Carolyn Parkhurst is the author of the novels The Dogs of Babel and Lost and Found and has published fiction in the North American Review, the Minnesota Review, the Hawai'i Review, and the Crescent Review. Parkurst received a B.A. from Wesleyan University and an M.F.A. in Creative Writing from American University. She lives in Washington, D.C., with her husband and two children.

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