The Nobodies Album by Carolyn Parkhurst

The Nobodies Album by Carolyn Parkhurst
Published by Doubleday, an imprint of Random House

Bestselling author Octavia Frost is in New York City to pitch her new book to her agent when she learns via the local news that her son, Milo, has been accused of murdering his girlfriend, Bettina. Though she and Milo have been estranged for four years, Octavia drops everything and travels to be with him in San Francisco. While she is learning about what her son’s been up to for the last four years, she is also on a quest to find out who really killed Bettina, and this takes her on a journey through her own past as well.

I’d been looking forward to reading The Nobodies Album ever since I saw it listed in LibraryThing’s Early Reviewers directory. I actually won it from there, but unfortunately the book never arrived, so when I saw it on audio at my library I knew I had to take advantage and finally read it. I really enjoyed the audio version and I’m sure that it is just as good, if not better, in print.

One of the most compelling aspects of The Nobodies Album is Octavia herself. While she’s not the easiest character to like, it is clear that she has a lot of demons in her past and I really wanted to understand her better. Some details of her life are revealed up front, but others emerge slowly throughout the novel. I was particularly interested to find out why she and Milo didn’t speak for so many years and what really happened to her husband and daughter, both of whom died when Milo was a child. These pieces of the puzzle are uncovered slowly, which made me really enjoy the journey of getting to know Octavia.

I probably should tell you that the book Octavia is pitching when she learns of Milo’s situation is also called The Nobodies Album, and it is a compilation of the rewritten endings of all of her novels. In Parkhurst’s novel, Octavia’s endings are interspersed throughout the text, giving the reader a sort of novel-within-a-novel experience, which was interesting for me. On the one hand, I certainly enjoyed getting to know Octavia better through her own writing. But on the other hand, these snippets had a way of distracting me and making me feel impatient to get to the “real” story. So I’m not sure that I loved this device, although it certainly added a little something extra to the book.

The mystery of who killed Bettina really propelled me through the book. I was very interested to find out what really happened, and I had my suspicions, but it was interesting to see it come together and to find out, most importantly, why that person did what he/she did. I found this part of the book to be done really well.

The Nobodies Album is a complex novel that has a lot of moving parts, all of which come together seamlessly in the end. There is a novel within this novel, too, and that made the entire experience just that more interesting. I enjoyed The Nobodies Album quite a bit and I’ll be reading more of Parkhurst’s novels whenever I can get my hands on them.