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
    Genre: Novels

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About this book

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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Reviews

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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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.

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.

Susan P. (Boston, MA)

You Don't Want to Read On But You Can't Stop
Carolyn Parkhurst has done it again: She's written a very disconcerting book (Dogs of Babel was very upsetting) that bothers me but I couldn't stop reading. I had to finish it! The central character, a novelist, has just finished her last book -- a book with the endings to all her previous novels changed. As a lover of fiction, I found this unacceptable. Yet I wanted to see what she would write and then I found myself trying to decide which ending I liked better. All this is scattered through the story of her son, a rock musician, accused of murder. The mysteries of who did the murder, why mother and son were estranged, and why she wanted to change endings makes you realize that Ms. Parkhurst is very talented. This book is for mystery lovers, and also perfect for those who cares about fiction and what it says about the writer.

Kimberly L. (Chula Vista, CA)

The Nobodies Album
Carolyn Parkhurst’s 'The Nobodies Album' is a distinctive and instantly engaging novel. Parkhurst deftly weaves a tale of delicate relationships forged during a time of murder, uncertainty, and blame. Throughout the story, Octavia Frost, author and main character, intersperses vignettes from her work, mirroring and giving further perspective to the twists of plot throughout 'The Nobodies Album'.

I read 'The Nobodies Album' quickly and hungrily. I strongly recommend Carolyn Parkhurst’s novel to readers who enjoy three-dimensional characters. While not a true edge-of-the-seat murder mystery, the author’s writing carries the reader from one page to the next until finally reaching the (not entirely) unforeseen conclusion.

Elizabeth D. (Maple Grove, MN)

E
I loved this book. The idea of an author going back and rewriting the final chapters of her books is intriguing and was handled well in this novel. The "final chapter" excepts are like short stories scattered throughout a novel, and I wished more than one of these fictional books actually existed. I was very moved by a number of them. I liked the exploration of the writing process, and the reminder that when an author is making even the smallest of decisions, she or he is foreclosing a multitude of other options (much like life). While that's not a new idea, I thought it was interesting that the fictional author, Olivia, says early on in the book that when a reader is finished with a book, the reader should feel like the conclusion was inevitable, that it couldn't have been wrapped up any other way. I know what she meant, having read a few books where the ending was so wrong. And yet... the options are endless. This is a book I want to read again (uncommon for me), since I believe it's one in which I'll discover something new. There was one piece of recurring symbolism that I'm not sure I understood - I may want to contact Carolyn Parkhurst to see if my interpretation is correct!

Karen B. (Pittsburgh, PA)

Outstanding Literary Mystery
Carolyn Parkhurst has once again succeeded in surprising her readers. In the "Nobodies Album", Octavia Frost, an enigmatic author whose latest work focuses on rewriting the endings of her previous novels, manages to rewrite her relationship with her estranged son while helping him cope with both a current and past tragedy. Once begun, the reader feels compelled to continue; what happened to Octavia's husband and daughter, what caused Octavia's and Milo's estrangement, who murdered Bettina? The "excerpt" chapters from Octavia's new manuscript help to increase the reader's curiosity and provide for the novel's excellent pacing. I thoroughly enjoyed this novel and will wholeheartedly recommend it. Now that I've finished "The Nobodies Album" I'd love to be able to move onto every one of Octavia Frost's novels! Alas, they don't exist; just like the songs on Milo's Nobodies Album.

...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.

Link to Carolyn Parkhurst's Website

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