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April 14, 2012 / schulerbooks

Schuler Guest Author Spot Part 2: Novelist Nick Arvin

Welcome back for this special second installment of this week’s guest author spot! Today we’re pleased to run a blog by Michigan native, Nick Arvin, whose newest novel, The Reconstructionist, has been earning fantastic reviews! (David Wroblewski, bestselling author of The Story of Edgar Sawtelle, said: “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.”)

Nick Arvin:

For Schuler’s, the great independent bookstore in the great state of Michigan, let me point out a couple of local connections between Michigan and my new book, The Reconstructionist.

I’m an engineer as well as a writer, and I live now in Denver, but I grew up in the small town in Michigan, named Clio. The protagonist of The Reconstructionist, Ellis Barstow, is an engineer who grows up in the small town in Michigan, named Coil,. Clio/Coil: You may detect an anagram. A reader with a deep knowledge of 1960s pop music might also notice the lyrics of a song that appears early in The Reconstructionist, when one of the characters flicks on the car radio. The song is “96 Tears,” by Question Mark and the Mysterians, and Question Mark himself happens to be the most famous resident of the small town of — yes — Clio, Michigan.

One of the critical junctures in the book occurs when Ellis’s half-brother is killed in a car accident in an intersection in Coil. Years pass. Ellis happens to meet his half-brother’s old girlfriend, Heather, in an art museum that is, more or less, the Detroit Institute of Arts. Ellis is looking for work, and prevails on Heather to introduce him to her husband, Boggs, who is a forensic engineer and expert witness, working on reconstructions of vehicle accidents for court cases and insurance agents.

The book then is coiled as tight as a spring around themes of accident, fate, and emotional truth vs. rational truth as found in the ways we drive and collide on America’s roadways. Ellis and Boggs end up driving all over the Midwest in the course of the story, but they are based in Michigan, which seemed only appropriate to me — because Michigan is the state that the rest of the world associates with cars and the open road, and also the state that knows better than any other joy and peril, speed and danger, of linking one’s fate to the automobile.

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