The Nobodies Album by Carolyn Parkhurst

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.  

I first heard about this book nearly a year ago over at Farm Lane Books and quickly added it to my TBR. After completing Love in the Time of Cholera I wanted something a little more fast paced and turned to this. It did the trick. I read it fairly quickly and it even kept me up fast my bedtime once. The structure of the novel was unique and I enjoyed how the plot unraveled. However, at times it felt like the mystery element of the plot fell on the back burner to Octavia's nostalgia for her past and her coping with a family tragedy, which worked out fine for the novel as a whole but since I picked it up hoping to read a mystery, I was a little let down. Aside from the suspenseful plot, Octavia's meditations on writing and fiction itself were among my favorite parts. 
I've always known that the best part of writing occurs before you've picked up a pen. When a story exists only in your mind, its potential is infinite; it's only when you start pinning words to paper that it becomes less than perfect. You have to make your choices, set your limits. Start whittling away at the cosmos, and don't stop until you've narrowed it down to a single, ordinary speck of dirt. And in the end, what you've made is not nearly as glorious as what you've thrown away.
In addition to themes of fiction and writing, the novel explores the bond between mother and son and the idea that we may not really know those who we trust. I did feel like the narrator was a little too whiny at times, which took away from my interest in the plot and my interest in her troubles. I also would have liked to see a greater parallel between Octavia's excerpts from her own novel, the book within the book, to the actual novel itself. Other than those gripes, the novel as a whole worked. I'd recommend this to anyone looking for a fun, quick read.

Publisher: Anchor, 2010


  1. I loved this novel, as well. She's a great writer, there is something subtle about her storytelling.

  2. I haven't heard of this one before, but it sounds really interesting. I'm kind of disappointed to hear that there isn't as much mystery to it as the synopsis gives off. But I love books that explore family relationships like this one does. Great review.

  3. I've read and enjoyed her earlier work, and I have no idea why I haven't made time for this one when everyone raves about it. I'll have to squeeze it in after my Orange reading!

  4. This novel sounds great! I'd seen it around, but never bothered to find out what it was about. I'm glad you reviewed it, because now I know I want to read it. Sounds like my cup of tea! Thanks!!

  5. I agree that the mystery element in this book isn't very strong, but I loved way she rewrote the endings to all those books. I hadn't thought about wanting connections between her own novel and the actual one, but I can see how you'd want that. I was very happy with the way it was though - she is a very clever author.