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Review: The Nobodies Album, Carolyn Parkhurst

Octavia Frost, a fairly ordinary novelist, has just written her most depressing book to date. Her new book, though, The Nobodies Album, is something completely different – she is rewriting the endings to all of her previous books. It’s perfectly apt for this time in her life, as she wishes many parts of her life could have turned out differently. She can’t begin restitution, however, until she hears shocking news: her rock star son Milo, from whom she has been estranged for years, has been accused of murdering his girlfriend. Octavia immediately flies to his home in California, not knowing what to expect, but ready for a change in her life and to support her son in the most difficult time of his. Interspersed with her story are the endings of all the books she’s written, along with their new chapters, shedding ever-increasing light on the changing state of Octavia’s emotions and outlook on life.

Despite the fact that it’s billed as a literary mystery, I found The Nobodies Album surprisingly satisfying. It’s true that the mystery wasn’t particularly mysterious; there is really only one person who has any motive for murdering Milo’s girlfriend Bettina, so even I, notoriously slow when it comes to solving these things, figured it out before the characters did. But I quite enjoyed the story along the way. Many of the other story elements aren’t revealed until further into the book, so it takes a while to truly understand how they have all gotten to this point. Seeing things from Octavia’s point of view, as an older woman who has made mistakes, tied in with the obvious change of attitude she’s had displayed through the old book endings spread throughout the story, made for a very emotive and moving read.

Though beautifully written, Octavia’s voice is slightly cold to start. I would encourage you to set that aside until the story gets more involved. She has reasons for acting the way that she does, and those reasons lead to the reveal of some fascinating, complex relationships – exactly what I look for in a book like this. The story takes a close look in particular at the relationships between mothers and their children; how even doing the best you can sometimes isn’t quite enough, especially not in the formative years. It’s true that Octavia and Milo have some terrible circumstances to deal with, but she realizes that their personalities – which are very similar – will clash while their lives are still normal. She isn’t the kind of parent Milo needs, but she’s the parent he has left, which leads to problems in their relationship that eventually result in their initial estrangement.

The Nobodies Album is a thoughtful and at times suspenseful literary mystery. Highly recommended to those who enjoy well-written characters and don’t mind the occasional break for another thread of the story.

I am an Amazon Associate. I received this book for free for review from LibraryThing Early Reviewers.

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