Monday, April 9, 2012

Book Review: "The Reconstructionist" by Nick Arvin

As a child, Ellis Barstow and his older half-brother, Christopher, were obsessed with car accidents, which happened frequently near their house. Christopher's death in a car accident while he is in high school puts Ellis on an aimless course; although he gets a college degree in engineering, he drifts from one meaningless and unsatisfactory job to another. After a chance encounter with Heather, Christopher's old girlfriend, who tried to rescue him from the crash, Ellis goes to work for Heather's husband, John Boggs, as a forensic reconstructionist, investigating, analyzing, and recreating the details of fatal car accidents.

Ellis loves his job, because it allows him to try and make sense of seemingly nonsensical things, and understand how one single action can have a ripple effect on so many. But Ellis is also increasingly drawn to Heather, and when they begin an affair, Boggs disappears. As Ellis tries to find him, he revisits the scenes of accidents they reconstructed, trying to make sense of his own life, as he is driven to uncover the truth about the accident that killed his brother, knowing it may affect his relationship with Heather.

This book was fascinating, compelling, and a little off-kilter at times. I loved the story at the heart of the book, and found the work that Ellis and Boggs did to be tremendously interesting, even though there was a little more scientific detail than I needed. And as Ellis analyzed his relationships and his past, the book took a poignant turn. However, I felt that Ellis' search for Boggs dragged on far longer than it needed to. While I felt I understood Ellis' motivation to keep trying to find him, Boggs didn't really seem to be the person you thought he was, so the whole section of the book threw me off a bit. But I still found the book moving and thought-provoking, and that is a testament to Nick Arvin's exceptional story-telling ability.

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