Thursday, January 5, 2012

Dismantled by Jennifer McMahon


Art students Suz, Tess, Henry and Winnie come together to form the Compassionate Dismantlers. The group lived by the idea that “To understand the nature of a thing, it must be taken apart.” The Dismantlers engaged in vandalism and pranks.  It was all fun and games until one summer night when it all went terribly wrong and one of the Dismantlers ended up dead.  Ten years later Tess and Henry are married and living a quiet life with their daughter Emma. Their solitude is interrupted when one of their former Dismantlers commits suicide after receiving a postcard referencing the Dismantlers’ college days.  Meanwhile, Tess and Henry cannot quite agree as to how much they need to worry about their nine-year-old daughter and her imaginary friend.

The back cover of the paperback promises it is “full of white-knuckle tension” characters “caught in circumstances beyond their control.”  That sentence along with the haunting cover photo let me to expect a mystery.  Unfortunately, there wasn’t much of a mystery.  Tess and Henry are spooked to learn upon learning about the postcard referencing their college days, but the reader knows from the beginning who sent the postcards and why.  The novel ends with a big production involving a fire, false identities and revealed secrets. However, despite the promise of white-knuckle tension and the big production at the end, the bulk of the novel is about a couple in their thirties who find themselves dissatisfied with the way their lives have turned out. Henry drinks a bit too much and is a bit paranoid.  Tess is convinced her husband was never passionately in love with her.  She always seems to be looking for something, but not quite sure what. They're both unengaged in their lives, disconnected from each other, and not really aware of how their behavior affects Emma.  It is less of a mystery and more of a study of a family falling apart.

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