The Nobodies Album
Octavia Frost is a well-known novelist. As the story opens, she is arriving in New York to meet with her editor so she can personally deliver her latest manuscript. That manuscript is a bit of a curiosity --- a collection of the reimagined and rewritten endings to her previously published novels. In a creative and unique (although at first possibly the slightest bit disorienting) Russian doll maneuver, Carolyn Parkhurst, author of THE NOBODIES ALBUM, also explores an experimental and unique form by interspersing some of Octavia's original and rewritten novel endings within the tale of Octavia herself.
Before she can meet with her editor, though, Octavia glimpses a news crawl that stops her in her tracks. It seems that her son Milo has been arrested for the murder of his girlfriend, Bettina. Octavia hasn't seen or communicated with Milo in years, at his request. However, through celebrity TV shows and other media, she has followed his career and life as the singer of a popular rock band. Now she has no choice but to fly to San Francisco and see Milo, even though she suspects he will refuse to see her.
On the plane, Octavia reads front-page newspaper stories about the murder. Kathy Moffett, Bettina's mother, is interviewed about her daughter's death. In the past, Octavia has had a decidedly mixed attitude toward the now bereaved mother --- mostly tinged with jealousy. Kathy and Bettina obviously had a close relationship, since Kathy was often included in media images of Milo and Bettina. Octavia has always yearned for the same kind of connection with her son. The facts behind the estrangement of Octavia and Milo are slowly revealed over the course of the tale, tantalizing readers with each step of the trail of clues.
Meanwhile, Octavia contacts Joe Khan. Joe is now Milo's bandmate, but he has been friends with Milo since adolescence, and Octavia has known him for years. She's pleased when he agrees to meet with her, even though he warns her that Milo wants nothing to do with her. Joe gives Octavia a gift that she receives with intense joy, but it comes with a puzzling note that reads "Someone is lying."
Octavia is pulled ever deeper into the murder mystery, beginning with an encounter with her son during which he makes a startling statement. She meets people in Milo's life, including a Mick Jaggeresque rock icon. Joe's girlfriend, Chloe, welcomes Octavia into her home --- and introduces her to a completely unexpected pleasure. Octavia continues to attempt to unearth the truth about Bettina's murder, even as she maneuvers the tricky territory between herself and her son.
Carolyn Parkhurst takes a big chance with the format of THE NOBODIES ALBUM, with its interspersed excerpts of Octavia Frost's novels. I predict readers will be firmly in two camps about this unique form of storytelling. Some murder mystery fans might find the novel endings to be disruptive to the story flow. However, many more readers are likely to understand that the murder plot takes a backseat to the primary mystery --- that of the relationship between Octavia and Milo. Within the comparison of the original novel endings and these revisions lie the clues to the inciting factors of their estrangement and allusions to the tragedy in their past. These readers may also find (as I do) that the novel endings are so elegant and gripping, and so potentially insightful into Octavia's present and past life, as to add untold layers to an entirely satisfying plot.
Reviewed by Terry Miller Shannon (firstname.lastname@example.org) on January 13, 2011
The Nobodies Album
- Publication Date: June 14, 2011
- Genres: Fiction
- Paperback: 320 pages
- Publisher: Anchor
- ISBN-10: 0767930584
- ISBN-13: 9780767930581