Review: The Nobodies Album, Carolyn Parkhurst

Author Octavia Frost has come up with the idea of rewriting the endings to each of her previous seven novels, and to put all the revised endings together as a brand new book, called The Nobodies Album. As she is traveling to deliver the manuscript to her agent, she sees a news item saying that her estranged son, Milo, has been arrested for murdering his girlfriend Bettina. Octavia and Milo (who is a rock star) have not spoken in four years, for reasons that are not immediately made clear; but when she sees that her son is in trouble, she drops everything and travels across the country to help.

Almost exactly what I wanted! I read The Nobodies Album because Kim mentioned that it was good, and I fancied a mystery that I wouldn’t be able to put down. The Nobodies Album had a lot of things going for it: The whodunit aspect of the mystery was, in a way, an afterthought; it made the rest of the plot happen but it wasn’t (for me) what created the suspense. The suspenseful stuff was the family secrets, what the Frost family’s tragedy had been all those years ago, and why Octavia and Milo fell out of contact with each other. Again, for me, because the kind of suspense I enjoy is emotional suspense.

Pankhurst is good at keeping this sort of secret without its feeling like a cheat that we haven’t found it out yet. Octavia knows what’s happened, and she doesn’t feel the need to describe it because she knows already!, as do all the other characters!, so she only hints at it obliquely over the course of the book. Interspersed with the main plot are excerpts from Octavia’s book: Jacket copy for each, then the last chapter, then the revised ending she has since written. Each of these adds layers and emotional weight to the nature of Octavia’s loss and grief, so that the reveals, when they happen, feel totally earned. Furthermore, I love it when books include “documents” from the characters’ lives to supplement the main narration. I wish that could happen more frequently.

I would have liked, though, to see a slightly meatier story. The Nobodies Album isn’t a long book, and when you account for the segments taken up by excerpts from Octavia’s novels, the main plotline is almost a novella. And really, not much happens. Octavia goes out to California, she has a few conversations with the people in her son’s life, there’s a funeral for Bettina, more chat, and then they figure out who did the murder and how and why. I can’t say exactly what else I’d have liked to see happen, but something! Something to make the primary plotline of the book feel less slight.

Thanks, Kim, for the recommendation! I really enjoyed it!

There are a plethora of other reviews. You may inspect them here.

  • I have been curious about this book for quite some time now, and your thumbs up means that I am going to have to grab it when I can. I am actually more interested in the reworking of the novels than in the family secrets, but the lovely thing about this book is that it has both of these elements inside, and would work for lots of different readers. Great review today! I am off to see where this can be had. I NEED to read it now!

    • The reworking of the novels was cool and not overdone. When I heard about that device, I thought it would be easy to fall into the trap of, each ending has a similar type of change. But that isn’t the case at all. The changes are all different and interesting in their different ways. I hope you like it!

  • I read this one a year or so ago and enjoyed it. I wasn’t sure about it initially, but eventually just found myself completely involved. In the end, I think I was more intrigued with the snippets of her revisions than the main plot line.

    • Actually, I think I was too. It was a cool idea, and I wouldn’t have minded if there had been more of those (as long as there was more regular story too).

  • Amy @ My Friend Amy

    lol at not much happens.

    It feels lately like a lot of stories are dragged out beyond what they could actually be. Even so I’m glad this was mostly what you wanted. ๐Ÿ™‚

    • It was, it was! I feel like I undersold it. It was a really absorbing read and I liked it a lot. I just didn’t LOVE it the way I wanted to.

  • OMG, I hate WordPress. I just set up a whole new account so I could comment, and they are seriously messing with me. Is she the author of Dogs of Babel? If so, have you read that yet?

    • I’m so sorry! WordPress are monsters! I’ve sent them a stroppy note and shall send another. Yes, she did write that — what’s it about? I’ve never heard of it.

  • I liked this one a lot. I agree with you though about the actual plot being sort of lacking.

    • Yeah, the conceit was good but more clues to the real mystery would have been good. Or not even clues, just more scenes between all those characters. I’d have liked that better.

  • I am glad you mostly enjoyed this. I have it on my TBR and hope to read it one of these days!

  • ==>” I canโ€™t say exactly what else Iโ€™d have liked to see happen, but something! Something to make the primary plotline of the book feel less slight.”
    ok, can’t help but say this reminds me of the quesadilla my hub had for lunch yesterday. He kept saying it was good but needed something and he couldn’t figure out what exactly. He ended up asking for marinara sauce and yep, that was it.
    All of that to explain why I wanted to comment, “Maybe it needs marinara sauce?”
    ๐Ÿ˜€

  • I could have sworn I commented on your review already… but apparently I haven’t! I’m so glad you liked this one.

    I think there could have been more scenes of the main mystery, just because the characters were so interesting and I liked seeing them with each other in that context.

    Also, yay to the documents. I love those too.

  • Have you seen the promotional video Caroline Parkhurst made for this novel? It is hilarious! Here, I’ll post you the link:

    I know I must read the novel, after having seen that.