The Reconstructionist

The Reconstructionist

3.07 (281 ratings by Goodreads)
By (author) 

List price: US$14.99

Currently unavailable

We can notify you when this item is back in stock

Add to wishlist

AbeBooks may have this title (opens in new window).

Try AbeBooks


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.
show more

Product details

  • Paperback | 329 pages
  • 134.62 x 200.66 x 25.4mm | 249.47g
  • New York, NY, United States
  • English
  • Harper Perennia
  • 0061995169
  • 9780061995163
  • 1,517,566

Review quote

"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
show more

Back cover copy

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.
show more

Rating details

281 ratings
3.07 out of 5 stars
5 7% (20)
4 26% (74)
3 41% (114)
2 19% (52)
1 7% (21)

Our customer reviews

Since I find the television show 'Crash Investigation Unit' fascinating, I was intrigued by the premise of The Reconstructionist. Reconstructing the cause of an accident is not too difficult, with hindsight. Clues litter the road's surface, vehicles bear scars, bodies too, and precise measurements can create a neat, bloodless computer simulation that shows exactly what went wrong. Ellis Barstow works as a forensic reconstructionist, determining the sequence of events that end with a vehicular fatality so that lawyers can apportion blame. Looking back, Ellis wonders at which point his own inexorable slide towards a catastrophic impact began, perhaps the first time he saw her Lego masterpiece on the coffee table, or that night at the park, swinging into the darkness, or on the afternoon his half brother died in a fiery collision in the intersection behind their house. "Everything," Boggs would say, "depends on the contingent and the adventitious." I particularly enjoyed the first half of The Reconstructionist, I was immediately drawn into the story of Ellis, Heather and Boggs, an awkward triangle, haunted by Ellis's half brother, Chris. Ellis, we learn, works with Boggs as an accident investigator, having joined him after after an introduction of sorts by Heather. Heather was the object of Ellis's teenage crush and his half-brother's girlfriend, but now, years later, is married to Boggs. Almost immediately you know that it is likely things will go wrong for the protagonists, Heather and Boggs are unhappy and Ellis finds his old feelings for Heather rise to the surface. Slowly, the three lose control of their emotions and the collision of secrets, grief and love results in cataclysmic damage. I was fascinated by the details the Ellis and Boggs share of the accidents they are investigating. Arvin strikes a skilled balance between technical detail and visual description so that you almost feel you are a witness to the drunk who over corrected when startled by wild pig carcasses in the road and slammed into a tree, or the good Samaritan pinned between a car and the grill of a truck. It can be a little disturbing at times but Arvin makes great use of gallows humour and as the accidents are reverse engineered, I couldn't help but be intrigued by the analysis. However I was disappointed by the second half of the book that seems to wander off into an overly long, surreal game of cat and mouse culminating in an unresolved existentialist argument. The Reconstructionist is a character driven novel but for me, when the characters lose the plot, both figuratively and literally, I lose interest. The Reconstructionist is a wonderfully interesting novel, up to a point. I am sure more literary minded readers will find great meaning in the rather bizarre twist the book takes towards the end but those readers, like me, who prefer something more grounded may find themselves let down. So I am torn and on this one you are going to have to make your own mind more
by Shelley Cusbert
Book ratings by Goodreads
Goodreads is the world's largest site for readers with over 50 million reviews. We're featuring millions of their reader ratings on our book pages to help you find your new favourite book. Close X