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?
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:
5. DISMANTLEMENT = FREEDOM
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.
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© 2008-2010 Joanne Mosher of The Book Zombie. All rights reserved.