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Dismantled ~ Jennifer McMahon

July 6, 2009


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Genre: Mystery

Publisher: Harper

432 pages

ISBN: 9780061689338

We, The Compassionate Dismantlers, Hold Five Truths To Be Self-Evident.

1. To Understand The Nature Of A Thing, It Must Be Taken Apart.

2. We Oppose Technology, Hierarchy, Rules And Laws, And All Forms Of Government.

3. The Universe Was Created In Chaos, And The Only True Creative Force Is Chaos.

4. Dismantlement Is An Act Of Compassion As Well As An Act Of Revolution

5. Dismantlement = Freedom

Does life imitate art or does art imitate life?

For the Compassionate Dismantlers, this is an absurd question as the two are one and the same. Suz, Tess, Henry and Winnie, all passionate art students, connect at a small college in Vermont, bonding over their mutual interests and talents. Dedicated to the messages behind their art more than the actual material itself, they begin a practical application of undoing the oppressions of institution and regulation. They consider themselves young radicals, “freeing” people from the clutches of society by dismantling property, social constraints and even their own artwork.

However innocently their actions were at the start (although it is debatable that their fearless leader, Suz, ever intended to be benign), compounded, their pranks begin to take a dark turn, fast. When an intended joke pushes the group too far, Suz goes out with a bang, leaving the remaining members guiltily disbanded.

Nine years after the disintegration of the Dismantlers, Tess and Henry have moved on but not far away. They live close to the school with their daughter, Emma, a sensitive introverted nine year old with a rather particularly creepy imaginary friend named Danner. While they are not miserable, they seem to have lost the passion they possessed as young artists, creators and destroyers. They are struggling to find themselves, the selves that went missing the night everything came completely apart.

When Winnie’s ex boyfriend and longtime subject of Dismantler pranks, ends his life, things begin unraveling quickly. Strange things being to happen, a majority of them involving Emma and Danner. Someone is determined to dredge up the secret buried within the summer, a decade ago and they are not going to go away quietly.

McMahon’s style is a conglomerate of voices, primarily Tess, Henry and Emma with side notes by the other members of the group including journal entries by Suz. The story works from the outside in, gathering speed as the characters’ story lines weave together into the tighter whole. There is a linear progression but the story also jumps back to photographs, journal entries, small asides and all too vivid memories. Each narrative is beautifully, if eerily, constructed to flesh out the desires, passions, fears and shortcomings of the player.

Dismantled is so much more than a murder mystery. It is a dark observation and dissection of human thought from the lightest feeling of summer diversion to intense paranoia of a life not truly lived. I fell in love with the idea of each person as an artist as it allowed for great discussion of what constitutes art and how this is not always the same answer for each person, nor for each piece of art.

This is an incredibly addictive book both for its creepy suspense element and the well cared for beauty that brings a deeper understanding to the story than the usual two-dimensional thriller. I highly recommend the book but you’ll want to finish it before bedtime and you may also want to find yourself far away from a lake.

I received this book via Good Reads First Reads program.

4 Comments leave one →
  1. July 6, 2009 6:18 pm

    This sounds very interesting to me. I also love reading books that have a setting in Vermont (because I live in Vermont). Thanks for the review! I’m adding it to my list!

  2. July 7, 2009 2:49 pm

    Awesome review! This was one of my favorite books so far this year. It was really hard to put down, it grabbed me right from the first chapter. The characters were so well done, and I wonder still how far Suz meant to take them all.

  3. iwriteinbooks permalink*
    July 7, 2009 3:02 pm

    Thanks! I just read your review, after I wrote mine. I’m really psyched about the book and I hope it gathers a good following. I had no idea what to expect when I picked it up and was pleasantly surprised.

  4. July 8, 2009 9:00 am

    The cover of that book is just creepy enough for me. I really want to read this one, especially after your review.

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