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Tuesday, March 13, 2012

"The Reconstructionist" by ~Nick Arvin~Psychological Sting of A Novel from HarperCollins

Published by: Harper Collins
This is a novel that will stealthily
walk into your consciousness
without giving away the underlying messages.
You'll have to dig a little for
the treasures, and the
hunt is well worth it!

One instant can change an entire lifetime.
As a boy, Ellis Barstow heard the sound of the collision that killed Christopher, his older half brother—an accident that would haunt him for years. A decade later, searching for purpose after college, Ellis takes a job as a forensic reconstructionist, investigating and re-creating the details of fatal car accidents—under the guidance of the irascible John Boggs, who married Christopher's girlfriend. Ellis takes naturally to the work, fascinated by the task of trying to find reason, and justice, within the seemingly random chaos of smashed glass and broken lives. But Ellis is harboring secrets of his own—not only his memory of the car crash that killed his brother but also his feelings for Boggs's wife, Heather, which soon lead to a full-blown affair. And when Boggs inexplicably disappears, Ellis sets out to find him . . . and to try to make sense of the crash site his own life has become.
Raising a host of universal questions—Can science ever explain matters of the heart? Can we ever escape the gravitational pull of the past?—Nick Arvin's novel is at once deeply moving and compulsively readable.

My Measured Perspective:
Nick Arvin writes in the brief, blunt style of an investigative reporter; this befitting the narration of his character's reconstructionist lifestyle.  The staccato "voice" is one of an isolated, socially inept man who is used to self-commentary and introspection.  It was this controlled inner dialog method that made his book so compulsively readable to me at the beginning.  It was this and the story as it developed that kept me whipping through the pages for answers.  Who would have thought that a book about car accident reconstruction would be so absorbing?  I wouldn't have.  But something about the summary made me take a chance on it, and I'm so glad I did.  This is a book I'll never forget.

While this appears on the surface to be the story of an average boy who grows up living a couple of blocks from a dangerous intersection where there were many car wrecks he was able to witness in the nearly immediate aftermath, it cuts much deeper than that.  It's the story of how that intersection and the accidents shaped him, his perceptions of people, and his life in total.  It's how living within range of continuing, inevitable danger and death, witnessing it regularly, and finally experiencing it personally by way of his brother's death, made him into the man he became.  Life's circumstances, the author seems to tell us, our physical surroundings outside the home, can be critical to who we become.

Through the course of the book, we come to understand that old adage, "there is no one so blind as he who will not see."  Human beings often know, but can't "know" the truth of horrendous happenings.  We can't "see" them because if we do, they might destroy us or the love we have with others.  In Nick Arvin's book, he causes his characters to wrestle with this issue in several ways.  It's a powerful struggle that works in juxtaposition with the very meticulously detailed job his protagonist Ellis and his boss Boggs have of seeing, looking over, measuring and configuring, reconstructing automobile accidents. Their very livelihoods come from the ability to see! 

While Arvin's characters are seemingly adept at reconstructing the accidents of others' lives, they have blind spots in their own lives. Both Ellis and Boggs are non-conformists, anti-social, odd and inept in their own ways. They fail to see how to fit in with others. The same goes for Heather, Bogg's wife and Ellis's brother's former girlfriend whom Ellis obsesses over.  She creates art projects making tiny, nearly indistinguishable diaramas from trash, and takes odd overexposed pictures made from tiny homemade cameras while hidden in her van.  She won't look at the real world around her, but makes fake, bearly distinguishable mini worlds, instead.

Boggs tells Ellis when he first comes to work they must remember it is an "analytic, emotionally odd job...you have to remind yourself that people died."  Disassociation is a part of the job, yet they find crushed Mardi Gras beads, a Babies R Us receipt, a tie...blood...other evidence that there was a human connection to the measurements and numbers coldly calculated and gleaned on sites.  This disconnect is seen in other areas of their lives: they both love books, and Boggs loves classical music; cultured and intelligent, you'd think.  But, each generally can't relate to human beings and suffering when they first begin their association.

Through the course of the book, we see Arvin's beautifully sculpted characters develop psychologically, socially and humanely.  It is ultimately love that brings them together and saves them.  It's love that helps them see everything they need to see.  And the journey is one that I traveled with them wide-eyed all the way.

I'm wondering if I've said enough to convince you to read his book.  Let me quote Nick Arvin one more time through one of his characters, "...no one lives an average life."  This may appear to be an average novel about average people in average circumstances.  It's not.  I hope you'll try it for yourself.  Guaranteed not to be missed, though not perfect in every way.  The end is a shocker!

4.5 stars




You've made this book sound very appealing!


Nice review. I enjoyed reading that. That sounds like a fabulous book! I'll definitely put it on my to-be read list.

The Bookworm

This sounds very good, I enjoyed your review :) sounds intriguing.

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