Title: The Nobodies Album
Author: Carolyn Parkhurst
Genre: Contemporary fiction
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
Source: Print copy from my personal library; audiobook from the public library
Audiobook reader: Kimberly Farr
First line: There are some stories no one wants to hear.
I have to give a huge thank you to Jen at Devourer of Books for her review of The Nobodies Album. Her review is what prompted me to pick up a copy of this book. When I saw the library had it on audio through Overdrive, I loaded it onto my MP3 player and was thrilled to discover that the reader was Kimberly Farr, whose work I especially enjoyed on Ayelet Waldman’s Red Hook Road. I’m so glad I listened to it on audio; I’m also thrilled that I own a copy, because this will go down as one of my favorite books of 2010.
The book starts with author Octavia Frost on her way to her publisher’s offices in New York City to drop off her latest manuscript. Her newest project is The Nobodies Album – a book that is quite a bit different than her previous novels. Octavia has been thinking a lot lately about endings – endings of relationships, and endings of her books. The Nobodies Album is her way of revisiting her previous books – by writing revised final chapters for each, very much like the alternate endings that sometimes appear on DVDs. The project is more than a book, however, it’s a way to reach out to her son, Milo, from whom she’s been estranged for four years.
While in New York, Octavia sees a news feed that says that her son, Milo, the lead singer of a rock group, has been arrested for the murder of his girlfriend, Bettina. Octavia heads to California, determined to help her son – if only he’ll let her. What follows is Octavia trying to figure out what happened the night of Bettina’s death. Sounds pretty straight-forward, right?
What sets this book apart from any other contemporary thriller, however, is that it’s not simply Octavia and Milo’s story. Interspersed between the chapters are the jacket copy blurbs, original final chapters, and revised final chapters of Octavia’s books. The first time this happened, my thought was, “Am I going to be interested in the last chapter of a book I’ve never read – that doesn’t even exist?” And, believe me, I was. In fact, if any of those books truly existed, if Octavia Frost was a real author, I would rush out and buy everything she’d published.
It’s not just this format that makes the book so brilliant; it’s also the character of Octavia. She tells us her story in first person, and she gives the reader a glimpse into the mind of an author: the way everything becomes material; the way she continually plots her life – writing it in her mind as she goes. I really loved this character and I found myself constantly wishing that she was a real author, an author whose blog I could read, whose books I could find in a bookstore. This is a book for people who love books, who admire authors, who want to write, and who crave a good story – that covers all of us, doesn’t it?