The Nobodies Album

This is my first Carolyn Parkhurst novel, and it’s pure delight. I sort of knew it would be, just by the premise: a novelist writes a book, a compilation of the endings of every single one of her previous novels. Then she revises every ending. As the story opens, she’s sending this manuscript off to her agent and publisher.

On the same day, she gets some horrible news: her estranged son, a famous rock musician, has just been arrested for murdering his girlfriend. Though he’s cut her out of his life after reading one of her novels, the one that most closely fictionalizes a traumatic event from their shared past, she nevertheless rushes across the country to be near him because she absolutely knows he is innocent.

So, there’s a murder mystery, and a mother and son story, and the story of what it takes to become a writer, also the novel endings plus revisions, not to mention the traumatic past event. All of it gets stirred up in a ripping good read that delves into a central writerly question: do fiction writers use their lives in their stories?

Parkhurst’s protagonist says that the writer’s life as it relates to her fiction is like butter in a cookie. You need it for the cookie to taste right, but it’s not an obvious element. It’s not a chocolate chip or a walnut. One of the many fun parts of this novel is that as the story unfolds, the reader gets to see whether she’s right or wrong about that.

This is my favorite book so far this summer. Way yummier than cookies.


  1. It’s a common concern – how fiction writers borrow from their experience (not sons murdering their girlfriends, heh) – and I’ve heard everyone from Anne Lamott to Elvis Costello talk about it lately. Sounds like a great read.


  2. I was going to say the same thing, John, that it seems to be a popular topic lately. But in that, I like the way the protag puts this. Like butter more than chocolate. How true.

    Great post, Cindy.


  3. The author/character said it much better than I did. Here’s her quote: “…the life experience of a fiction writer is like butter in cookie dough; it’s a crucial part of flavor and texture — you certainly couldn’t leave it out — but if you’ve done it right, it can’t be discerned as a separate element.”


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