The Nobodies Album is described as a murder mystery, but it is so much more than that. It is an insightful look into the relationship between a mother and her grown-up child, but it is also a clever piece of meta-fiction – questioning whether a story ever really ends and what rights an author has to a book once it has been published.
The Nobodies Album begins with Octavia Frost, a famous novelist, discovering that her son has been arrested for murdering his girlfriend. She dashes across the country to be with him, despite the fact that they haven’t seen each other for years. Scared and emotional she waits to see if she will be accepted back into his life and begins the painful process of discovering whether or not he is guilty of the crime. I thought that the book perfectly captured the emotions of parenthood – covering the nature versus nurture debate as well as the guilt experienced when a child behaves inappropriately. The meta-fictional style made these emotions seem all the more honest and realistic.
Now that the moment is here, it’s not what I expected at all. That’s the fundamental flaw in the illusion that writers like to maintain, the idea that we can craft anything approaching truth. No matter how richly we imagine, no matter how vividly we set the scene, we never come close to the unambiguous realness of the moment itself.
Interwoven with the narrative are snippets from Octavia Frost’s novels. Life experiences have altered the way she views the world and so she has decided to create a new book in which she rewrites the ending to all her previous novels. The snippets didn’t come across as realistic endings as each contained the sort of information that normally begins a novel, but I’m willing to forgive this because each of the stories was so interesting in its own right. I could easily have read full-length versions of most of them – especially the one in which people forget everything that is too traumatic.
It is difficult to explain just how clever this novel is. There is so much going on, but Carolyn Parkhurst’s skill as a writer ensures that the reader is never lost. It could easily have felt gimmicky, but the emotional rawness of the text lent an authenticity to it.
I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in parental responsibilty or how the writing process changes with experience, but also to anyone looking for a gripping narrative with an original, thought provoking style.
The thoughts of other bloggers:
….the writing is stellar. It is smart, insightful, and real. You’ve Gotta Read This!
….an incredibly creative novel that I definitely recommend. S. Krishna’s Books
……accessible and thoughtful. The Literate Housewife
I think I may have discovered a new favourite novelist!
Have you read any of Carolyn Parkhurst’s earlier books?