Nick Arvin is the award-winning author of the novel Articles of War, named one of the Best Books of the Year by Esquire, and the story collection In the Electric Eden. A graduate of the Iowa Writers' Workshop, he also holds degrees in mechanical engineering from the University of Michigan and Stanford, and has worked in both automotive and forensic engineering. He lives in Denver, Colorado.
The Reconstructionist: A Novelby Nick Arvin
In a gripping novel of secrets and survival from an acclaimed, emerging literary voice, the collision between a budding forensic investigator, his tormented mentor, and the haunted woman who emerges from the wreckage of his past will have fateful results for all. Following his collection In the Electric Eden and the novel Articles of War, Nick Arvin’s The Reconstructionist is both a page-turning thriller and a powerful novel of character, with shades of Tom Franklin’s Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter, Dennis Cooper’s The Marbled Swarm, and Chuck Palahniuk’s Fight Club. Fascinating and yet disturbing, redemptive and yet bleak, The Reconstructionist is like no other book today—while its timeless themes of damage and growth, decisiveness and responsibility, will echo far into the future.
- HarperCollins Publishers
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The Reconstructionists are a firm that specializes in determining the facts about fatal automobile accidents primarily to be used as testimony for insurance and litigation purposes. At the center of the story is one of the reconstructionis and his boss and a love angle that carries the reader on a most interesting chase. Hard to put down
This book worked for me on a lot of different levels. It presented a fascinating picture of an obscure (at least to me) but interesting profession, it presented a puzzle that needed to be solved, and like all good books solved some things and not others, it involved a series of emotional complexities being worked out between interrelated characters, and it explored the mind of a character trying to work his way through the muddle of his past and present. All these things working together in harmony made for an enjoyable novel.
I thought it would have been better. Write up was better than the book
In a story of love, lust, hate and miscommunication Ellis Barstow is muddled. He loves his dead brother’s girlfriend (who also happens to be his boss’ wife). Always has but might not always will. Heather was nice to his when no one else was when he was young and his teenage crush has developed into full blown – something close to obsession. Boggs hires Ellis to help him reconstruct vehicle accidents. Their work usually wins lawsuits for their clients; but are they always right? It’s the real world, folks, not gonna happen. Ellis follows Boggs like a puppy but may be the real mind behind their projects. Until. Boggs discovers Ellis and Heather have become a bit more than friends. He can’t deal with that so he takes off to places unknown. Ellis, guilt ridden, follows him to make amends. Boggs and Ellis make up the main parts of this story. I liked it but I also didn’t. I really liked it until the affair began which seemed to break the book up into a confusing back and forth between Ellis minor breakdown, Boggs' major life crisis and what Heather may have been up to twelve years ago. It’s certainly worth the time to read, if for nothing else than to understand how traffic accidents are thought out.
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!