It’s been four long years since author Octavia Frost last spoke to her only son, Milo. Now a rock star accused of brutally murdering his girlfriend, Milo’s demons and debaucheries are being dragged out for public consumption. As Octavia prepares to pitch a new book to her publisher — a collection of alternative endings to her previous novels, some beloved and others less so — she must try to repair what for so long has been broken with her broken son.
Carolyn Parkhurst’s The Nobodies Album was a slow build for me. One minute I was rolling my eyes at Octavia’s snobbery, her nonsense and selfishness, and the next I was picking up the scattered pieces of my broken heart upon learning the sad truth of the Frost family — and Octavia’s private hurts. Though Milo was certainly not always a likeable character (like mother, like son?), I found myself invested in the lives of these characters and never considered not seeing it through to the end.
This multi-layered story has a lot going on. Like, a lot. Sprinkled between present-day chapters are the chapters of Octavia’s fictional fiction, excerpts from the titular Nobodies Album . . . eh, you got all that? Basically, a book-within-a-book — and the books have nothing to do with one another, per say. Or do they? In the wake of a great tragedy only revealed toward the end of the book, Octavia has lived her life in a shadow of grief — and her writing career was, in some ways, born of this desire to sift through and move past this despair.
In trying to make sense of the senseless, Milo feels isolated and abandoned . . . and not just a tiny bit angry. Other layers of The Nobodies Album consist mainly of a “Did he really do it?” wonderment regarding Bettina’s death, which is sudden and violent and awful. As readers, we’re lured in with various scenarios, starting to question what we’ve learned and trying to put the pieces together ourselves. I had a few theories — and they all proved false. Every time I thought I’d figured it out, Parkhurst switched everything up on me. As we question what we know of the strange ways these people fit into each other’s lives, a tapestry is formed. I was impressed.
Though the story dragged in parts and I’ll confess to skipping through some of the alternate endings from Octavia’s book, I was captivated by the saga of Milo and his mother and satisfied with the conclusion. Sad but also touching, The Nobodies Album will appeal to fans of contemporary family-centered fiction and character studies. Wise, clever and engrossing, Parkhurst’s work is a memorable one.
4 out of 5!