THE NOBODIES ALBUM by Carolyn Parkhurst

Parkhurst I just finished The Nobodies Album by Carolyn Parkhurst – just in time for her reading this afternoon at Politics & Prose here in DC. This is the second Parkhurst book I've read – the first was Lost and Found, which I reviewed shortly after launching this blog in 2006. I definitely recommend The Nobodies Album, which I had a hard time putting down over the last few days.

The Nobodies Album is a complicated book. Its narrator – Olivia Frost – is a famous novelist whose books are usually rather disturbing, dealing often with the death of a child or a parent, usually under tragic circumstances (drowning, suicide, etc.) Olivia herself lost both her husband and daughter in a tragic accident, leaving her with a young son, Milo. When The Nobodies Album opens, Olivia is about to drop off with her editor the manuscript for her latest work, in which she re-writes the last chapter of all of her previous books. At that same time, Milo – who is now in his late 20s, a famous rock star, and estranged from his mother – is arrested for the murder of his girlfriend. The rest of the book is essentially three things: a murder mystery, an exploration of Octavia and Milo's relationship, and a discourse on the nature of fiction writing.

I really liked this book. There is a lot going on, and some of the interspersed chapter rewrites from Octavia's former novels, which are sprinkled throughout the book, are a bit jarring as they break up the flow of the murder plot. But everything in here makes sense. The prior novels reveal a lot about Octavia and how she got to where she is, as do her re-writes, which are each a part of her attempt to make peace with Milo. There are so many themes in this book – regret, forgiveness, the creative process, the nature of parenthood – it's very rich.

I especially enjoyed the passages about writing. Here's one I liked:

There's an analogy I came up with once for an interviewer who asked me how much of my material was autobiographical. I said that the life experience of a fiction writer is like butter in cookie dough: it's a crucial part of flavor and texture – you certainly couldn't leave it out – but if you've done it right, it can't be discerned as a separate element. There shouldn't be a place that anyone can point to and say, There – she's talking about her miscarriage.

This is a fascinating book, in addition to being beautifully paced, with just enough tension to propel the reader forward with great anticipation. I don't want to give away much more than that (there are a lot of spoilers). I really recommend The Nobodies Album, and I can't wait to hear what Parkhurst has to say this afternoon! I will report back.


  • July 11, 2010 - 5:23 pm | Permalink

    This sounds like it’s probably pretty thought provoking. I’m looking forward to reading it.

  • July 11, 2010 - 9:31 pm | Permalink

    You have me so excited to read this Gayle!

  • July 12, 2010 - 12:53 am | Permalink

    I am glad you guys are looking forward to it! I am sad that it is over. 🙁

  • July 12, 2010 - 8:36 am | Permalink

    I just posted my review for this book today! I agree with everything you said. You described the complicated plot well!!

  • July 23, 2010 - 2:24 pm | Permalink

    Sounds like a great book. I find as an aspiring writer myself, I always enjoy reading books that talk about writing. Thanks for the great review.

  • December 28, 2010 - 9:25 pm | Permalink

    Happy New Year! The author write more I liked it.

  • January 24, 2011 - 2:13 pm | Permalink

    Happy New Year! Happiness and success in 2011.

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