Review ♦ Dismantled

About The Book

Henry, Tess, Winnie, and Suz banded together in college to form a group they called the Compassionate Dismantlers. Following the first rule of their manifesto – “To understand the nature of a thing, it must be taken apart” – these daring misfits spend the summer after graduation in a remote cabin in the Vermont woods committing acts of meaningful vandalism and plotting elaborate, often dangerous, pranks. But everything changes when one particularly twisted experiment ends in Suz’s death and the others decide to cover it up.

Nearly a decade later, Henry and Tess are living just an hour’s drive from the old cabin. Each is desperate to move on from the summer of the Dismantlers, but their guilt isn’t ready to let them go. When a victim of their past pranks commits suicide – apparently triggered by a mysterious Dismantler-style postcard – it sets off a chain of eerie events that threatens to engulf Henry, Tess, and their inquisitive nine-year-old daughter, Emma. Is there someone who wants to reveal their secrets? Is it possible that Suz did not really die – or has she somehow found a way back to seek vengeance?

Book Title: Dismantled Genre: Fiction
Author: Jennifer McMahon Type: Hardcover 432 pages
Publisher: Harper Collins Publication Date: June 2009

My Thoughts  
After turning the last page, and closing this book, my first thought was how had I not read this author’s other books. If Jennifer McMahons’ two previous novels are even half as good as Dismantled,  then I have been missing out on something truly amazing.

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

Reading Dismantled is like seeing the before and after shots from a person’s (well more like a small social circles) life. Alternating between memories of the past, flashbacks provoked by diaries and Polaroid photos, and present day goings-on, Dismantled is a story that sucked me in right from page one. I wanted desperately to know what had happened, and what those past events would bring about in the future.

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

The main characters are Henry, Tess, Winnie, and Suz. They were closer than any group of friends could be, until Suz dies. Then they go their separate ways, Winnie taking off on her own, Henry and Tess getting married, having a child and trying to keep their past buried. But although these four friends may start out as the main story-tellers, it’s Emma, Henry and Tess’s daughter, who brings the past into focus and steals the story.

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

Emma also stole this readers heart, she seems such a shadow of a child. Her thoughts, feelings and actions make it clear that as much as a couple may try to pretend, children can feel when something isn’t right within their family. Emma’s imaginary friend, her inability to socialize with other kids her age and her compulsive habits, are all proof that a child can suffer from the secret regrets, loves, obsessions and envies of parents. It’s heart-breaking to see Emma try to make sense, make right and make whole, while the people around her always thrived on taking apart, creating chaos and dismantling.

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

There is just too much that made Dismantled an excellent novel. Every character receives their own space to develop, regress and explain their motivations. Relationships that appear simple at first, are revealed to have a depth that crosses from friend to lover and back again. The importance of art, the reason for art and the purpose in someone's life for art is investigated with the character’s personal insights. I was particularly fascinated by the dynamics within the group, the feelings each member felt, the desire, or lack of desire, to be the one with all the power. How a group can seem to be held together by shared ideas, concepts and beliefs – but with secrets that brew beneath the camaraderie.

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

Dismantled kept me up till morning, because once I started reading, I had to finish. Books that make me feel that need are the greatest for me as a reader. It had so many ideas running through my mind, and left me thinking that there were so many angles that I may have overlooked. It’s a book that I will return to, read again focusing on a different perspective. But first I need to read McMahons’ other books – which I admit I ran out and bought immediately the day after finishing Dismantled. 

This passage is what had me hooked from the first page, so full of teasing power and hopelessness.

“You never really got it, did you, babycakes?” he hears her whisper in his ear.

“No,” he tells her, slipping the rope around his neck, pulling the postcard from his pocket to look at one last time. “But I do now.”

He steps off the chair.

The postcard falls from his hand, drifts to the floor in slow motion, turning: moose, words, moose, words --until it lands, the carefully printed words facing up, the last thing he sees before losing consciousness:



About The Author

Jennifer McMahon grew up in suburban Connecticut, and graduated from Goddard College in 1991. Over the years, she has been a house painter, farm worker, paste-up artist, pizza delivery person, homeless shelter staff member, and has worked with mentally ill adults and children in a few different capacities. She is the author of Island of Lost Girls and Promise Not To Tell. Jennifer McMahon lives in Vermont with her partner Drea, and their daughter, Zella.


Other Reviews
Have you reviewed this book too?
Let me know and I’ll add your link.

© 2008-2010 Joanne Mosher of The Book Zombie. All rights reserved.


Book Lady said...

Just put this one on my wishlist! Great review!

avisannschild said...

I must admit I'm a bit scared of her books (they all sound really dark), but your review is fantastic!

bermudaonion said...

I've been attracted to this book because of the cover. This is the first review I remember seeing - I'm thrilled to see it's so good.

Shelley/Book Fanatic said...

I hadn't heard of this book until now. I'm definitely going to add it to my to-read list!

Kim (Sophisticated Dorkiness) said...

I love the way you formatted this review, it's very cool. This book sounds pretty interesting, I like the way it uses different formats and times.

Maree said...

I love those books that keep you up reading. I'm going to have to find this one now - thanks!

christina said...

Wow. This book sounds absolutely delicious! Great review.

Dar said...

I remember noticing this book because of the cover-I think it's awesome. I thought it sounded good as well and your review has solidified that. This is probably a book I will buy.

Belle said...

I hadn't heard of this book today, then saw it earlier at the sony ebook store. Your review is wonderful - it sounds like a really amazing book. I'm adding it to my list.

Amy said...

Thanks for the review, this sounds like one I don't want to miss. Never heard of it before.

Anonymous said...

Great review...I like how you interspersed the 5 truths. And that last teaser...yikes!

lilly said...

I really need to read this one now. Never heard of this author so if all her books are so good it will be atreat to read them all. Thanks for this review.

Jennsbookshelf said...

Sounds fascinating! I saw a ad for this on Shelf Awareness and it's been on my wish list. Thanks for the review.

Care said...

OOoooooooo!! I want to read this! It sounds like a book that might beg discussion?

Jeane said...

It sounds like a disturbing- and fantastic- book. I think I'm going to have to go look for it. Great review.

Zibilee said...

I have been coming across this book more and more lately. I really liked the style of your review, and I think this book sounds like something that I could really get wrapped up in. Thanks for featuring this one, I will have to pick it up!

Nymeth said...

And now I ask not only how I haven't read her other books, but how I haven't read this or even heard of Jennifer McMahon before! This sounds truly amazing.

Diane said...

I LOVE this author and look forward to this book! Great review.

Sassy Brit said...

I really enjoyed your review and I have seen this book being blogged about before and wondered what it would be like. It seems right up my alley!

Thanks for sharing.

Here's my Friday Find!

Anonymous said...

oh, i just finished this last night -- LOVED it. i agree with everything you said! her other books, promise not to tell and the island of the lost girls are also excellent. she really does that whole "haunted by the past" thing very well!

Melanie said...

Oh my goodness, this book sounds absolutely fabulous! This one is definitely going on my wishlist.

Christie said...

I wrote about Dismantled here:
I've linked to your review there as well.

I didn't like the book at all...but if you haven't yet read Promise Not To Tell, I highly recommend it. It's vastly superior.

Anonymous said...

Dismantled was the best book i have read this whole summer. It hooked me from the first page and I finished in two days. The whole book was shocking and after I finished I wanted to read it all over again.

Anonymous said...

I’ve recently started a blog, the information you provide on this site has helped me tremendously. Thank you for all of your time & work.