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The Reconstructionist: A Novel Paperback – March 13, 2012

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 329 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Perennial (March 13, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0061995169
  • ISBN-13: 978-0061995163
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 0.8 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,450,059 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews Review

Amazon Best Books of the Month, March 2012: You wouldn't think that earning a pair of mechanical engineering degrees would lend itself to fine literature, but Nick Arvin is an exception: His thoughtful, offbeat, original sophomore novel, The Reconstructionist, has a caliber as unexpected as its author's. Antihero Ellis Barstow, whose half brother Christopher died young in a car crash, makes his living by conducting auto accident postmortems. He also loves his boss's wife, who--not coincidentally--was Christopher's high school girlfriend. It sounds complicated, but in the end all these likably flawed people are just trying to answer the same two questions: What happened? And whose fault was it? --Mia Lipman


“Suffused with sharp turns and minute, telling details that add up to a riveting consideration of risk and responsibility.” (Publishers Weekly)

“The Reconstructionist becomes a contemplation of the broadest questions of life: How do we love one another? How do we survive the accidents of our lives? … Nick Arvin is an immensely gifted writer, and he has given us a thrilling, soulful book.” (David Wroblewski, author of The Story of Edgar Sawtelle)

“With precision prose, The Reconstructionist hurtles the reader at breakneck pace through a story of love and the collision physics of auto crashes....A materpiece of modern fiction.” (Cortright McMeel, author of Short)

Customer Reviews

I'm wondering if I've said enough to convince you to read his book.
The Bookish Dame
I did not feel empathetic towards the characters and was not invested enough in them.
Sarah Joyce Bryant
A great read that will stay with you long after you put the book down.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

13 of 14 people found the following review helpful By grumpydan VINE VOICE on March 19, 2012
Format: Paperback
Ellis Barstow is a forensic reconstructionist; trying to figure what causes automobile accidents. He works with John Boggs as they investigates and discuss crash sites. Boggs is married to Heather (who had introduced Ellis to Boggs) and is also the ex-girlfriend of Ellis' brother Christopher who died in a car crash when Ellis was young (and still haunts him). And Ellis had a boyhood crush on Heather. Things begin to heat up between the two.

This character driven story is detailed when it comes to reconstructing the crashes and one can learn what a forensic reconstructionist does. But then at somewhere in the middle of the story it becomes bizarre as Ellis searches for Boggs after he learns of the affair. It lost me and I lost interest.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By JudithAnn on April 7, 2012
Format: Paperback
Ellis Barstow works as a reconstructionist and together with his boss John Boggs, they travel to fatal-accidents sites. They also research cars that have been involved in those accidents and reconstruct what most likely happened during the accident.

Ellis is obsessed with Heather, Boggs wife, who was his brother's girlfriend when they were teenagers. His brother, Christopher, had an accident in which he died, while Heather was burned in her face.

Ellis is in a difficult situation: John Boggs is not only his boss but also his friend, but Ellis now has an affair with Heather. This makes him feel guilty, but given his obsession with her, he can't seem to end it. Also, having had his brother die in a car accident, the job of reconstructionist is maybe not a good choice for him, although he is good at his work.

When Boggs disappears, Ellis tries to find him and travels all over the country back to the accident locations that they have resarched together in the past, as he expects to find him there.

I'd say this is more of a men's book than a women's. At least, it's a man's story, his obsession for doing his job well, his obsession with Heather, and the topic that-cannot-be-discussed: his brother's accident.

Saying that, I very much enjoyed the book. It wasn't a book that kept me busy thinking about it when I was not reading it, but every time I picked it up again, I was glad to be back in Ellis' world.

Ellis really has too little to do. Besides his job and his affair with Heather, he has nothing much happening in his life. In fact, his life is a bit of a mess and he knows this has to change. But like most people, he finds it easier to keep going.
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11 of 15 people found the following review helpful By The Bookish Dame on March 13, 2012
Format: Paperback
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!

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.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Larry Hoffer on July 31, 2012
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
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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