The Reconstructionist
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The Reconstructionist

3.06 of 5 stars 3.06  ·  rating details  ·  198 ratings  ·  59 reviews
At a loose end after college, Ellis Barstow drifts back to his home town and a strange profession: reconstructing fatal traffic accidents. He seems to take to the work immediately , and forms a bond with his boss and mentor, John Boggs, an intriguing character of few but telling words.

Yet Ellis is harbouring a secret. He was drawn to the reconstructionist's grisly world by...more
Paperback, 352 pages
Published March 1st 2012 by Harper Perennial (first published June 3rd 2010)
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Columbus Avenue Boys by David CarraturoAbraham Lincoln by Seth Grahame-Smith1Q84 by Haruki MurakamiWhite Jazz by James EllroyLet's Pretend This Never Happened by Jenny  Lawson
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Community Reviews

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Mark Stevens
"The Reconstructionist" is a stunning novel that lives in the uncomfortable world of automobile accidents. It is also, through Arvin’s sharp eye, a beautiful piece.

The Reconstructionist focuses on two men—one mentor, one student—whose job it is to understand, analyze and draw conclusions about how accidents happened.

It also focuses on a woman who is married to the mentor and who was involved in a car accident that was a formative event in the early life of the student. But we don’t know precise...more
Timothy Bazzett
Weird science, mystery and a semi-demented road trip. Great read!

I have been looking forward to Nick Arvin's next novel ever since reading his first, the excellent ARTICLES OF WAR (2005). And THE RECONSTRUCTIONIST did not disappoint me. Far from it. In fact I found Arvin's second novel to be an absolutely riveting page-turner, well worth the wait.

Arvin's second novel might be considered by some to be a difficult book to categorize, dealing as it does with a pair of forensic engineers, or "recons...more
Ellis Barstow’s life is defined by accidents. Boggs, his boss, believes that accidents are inevitable meaning nothing is an accident. What brought them together could be proof. When Ellis was a teenager his half-brother Christopher died in a car accident. After college, Ellis drifted from jobs until he sees Christopher’s girlfriend at the time of the accident, Heather. She is married to Boggs and through her he got a job as a Reconstructionist.

I wasn’t sure what to expect from the Reconstruction...more
Ellis's life is all about accidents. He works as a forensic reconstructionist, examining the engineering of auto accidents. It's analytical and straight forward, the numbers tell the tale. But there are other accidents in his life that he just doesn't have the equations for, and they haunt him. It began with his half-brother's death in a fiery crash that he witnessed, and then an accident of his own, and the "accident" of falling into an affair with his bosses wife. After his boss finds out abou...more
This book worked for me on a lot of different levels. It presented a fascinating picture of an obscure (at least to me) but interesting profession, it presented a puzzle that needed to be solved, and like all good books solved some things and not others, it involved a series of emotional complexities being worked out between interrelated characters, and it explored the mind of a character trying to work his way through the muddle of his past and present. All these things working together in harm...more
This is a novel that will stealthily
walk into your consciousness
without giving away the underlying messages.
You'll have to dig a little for
the treasures, and the
hunt is well worth it!

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, investigatin...more
Very odd book, in a good way, occupying a delicate space in between The Odyssey and Warm Leatherette. It was on the chilly side but I appreciated the way form followed function there, and thought it was written exactly right for the tale of an automobile accident reconstructionist on the road in search of a number of things: his boss, whose wife he's sleeping with, the memory of his brother, killed in a car crash many years ago, and himself -- which makes it a kind of existential tale as well. I...more
When my wife recommended The Reconstructionist to me, she thought I would enjoy it because I have an engineering background. The main characters of the story are engineers, an unusual sort that reconstruct traffic accidents after the fact to help determine who is at fault. So, I can understand why she would have thought that would be interesting to me.

But the story isn't really about accident reconstruction, although some accidents to get reconstructed. No, the story is really about the relation...more
In a story of love, lust, hate and miscommunication Ellis Barstow is muddled. He loves his dead brother’s girlfriend (who also happens to be his boss’ wife). Always has but might not always will. Heather was nice to his when no one else was when he was young and his teenage crush has developed into full blown – something close to obsession.
Boggs hires Ellis to help him reconstruct vehicle accidents. Their work usually wins lawsuits for their clients; but are they always right? It’s the real worl...more
Shelleyrae at Book'd Out
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 fa...more
Larry Hoffer
As a child, Ellis Barstow and his older half-brother, Christopher, were obsessed with car accidents, which happened frequently near their house. Christopher's death in a car accident while he is in high school puts Ellis on an aimless course; although he gets a college degree in engineering, he drifts from one meaningless and unsatisfactory job to another. After a chance encounter with Heather, Christopher's old girlfriend, who tried to rescue him from the crash, Ellis goes to work for Heather's...more
Sarah Joyce Bryant
The Reconstructionist follows the main character, Ellis, who is a bit lost after graduating college as an engineer. His half-brother died when he was younger in a car accident close to their home and Ellis heard the accident. Hearing accidents was commonplace where they lived; however, when Ellis went to the accident scene, as he often did after hearing one, he realized it involved his brother and his brother’s girlfriend who he had a secret crush on. Many years later, Ellis runs into his brothe...more
The Intersection of Science And Emotion

Nick Arvin proved to us in his initial novel ARTICLES OF WAR that he is not only a keen observer and sensitive interpreter of those moments in life and death, but that he has an uncanny ability to take those observations and weave them into a mesmerizing story. One aspect of reading and getting to know Nick Arvin is discovering how open he is with his talent. In this new book THE RECONSTRUCTIONIST he shares at book's end three 'accidents' that awakened in h...more
There probably aren't very many people that can create a story dealing with the minutia involved with vehicle accident reconstruction and make it interesting. Thankfully Nick Arvin is an author that can take the mundane and often gruesome details of vehicle accident reconstruction and weave it deftly around the life of one man, Ellis Barstow.

Ellis, and his boss, John Boggs, travel around the country reconstructing motor vehicle accidents. It seems as if Ellis believes that by reconstructing othe...more
Ellis Barstow works as a reconstructionist and together with his boss John Boggs, they travel to fatal-accidents sites. They also research cars that have been involved in those accidents and reconstruct what most likely happened during the accident.

Ellis is obsessed with Heather, Boggs wife, who was his brother’s girlfriend when they were teenagers. His brother, Christopher, had an accident in which he died, while Heather was burned in her face.

Ellis is in a difficult situation: John Boggs is no...more
David Hebblethwaite
Ellis Barstow is an engineering graduate who still hasn’t found his métier, until a chance encounter with Heather Gibson, his half-brother Christopher’s ex-girlfriend, leads to Ellis taking a job with Heather’s husband, John Boggs, in the forensic reconstruction of traffic accidents. The relationship between Ellis and Boggs is as much one of friends as one of boss and employee; but Ellis is conducting an affair with Heather – and, when Boggs finds out, he storms off on a tour of crash sites, lea...more
The Reconstructionist by Nick Arvin – You might remember Arvin’s debut novel Articles of War, which won the Colorado Book Award and was the One Book One Denver choice. The Reconstructionist is as finely written as his first novel. He has a spare way of writing, making each word necessary to the story. His writing is exquisite. In the new novel, the character, Ellis, as a boy hears the fatal car accident which kills his older half-brother. This changes his life. Years later, after college Ellis b...more
Arvin uses his professional knowledge to give exacting details to an area of work with which I was unfamiliar: that of an accident reconstructionist. Those experts use measurements, photography, and physics to determine at what rate of speed vehicles were going when they hit each other or a tree. The psychological factors that set the story in motion were less successful than the investigations that were part of the journey. I sensed from the beginning where the book was in all likelihood going...more
I'm not really sure what to write for this review.

I learned about this book from the magazine Mental Floss. For some reason I added it to my list of books to read. I began reading it, thinking it would be a cool book about traffic accidents and the science of determining cause and effect.

I was hooked when the book began to take a freaky left turn, bordering on Stephen King-ish type fiction. Wow. And then I had to finish it, to try to figure out what the point to the whole story is. I'm not ent...more
What a cool concept. It feels like something Palahniuk might've come up with in the Lullaby or Rant days. Unfortunately, it doesn't really take flight. It isn't bad, by any means, but it's just not altogether gripping or interesting. The beginning of the book is terrific, though, and that was enough to sustain the rest of the book at a 'meh' level. It isn't good, it isn't bad. It's just a book that exists with a concept that doesn't quite match the execution.

I surprisingly had a lot more to say...more
Originally posted at Fancy Terrible:

This one has gotten a lot of good reviews. But me no likey. Actually, the first part wasn’t bad — Ellis, our protagonist, is a tad adrift until someone from his past (okay, his dead brother’s old girlfriend Heather) pushes him toward her husband, Boggs, and BAM! A new career as a reconstructionist. I found the work pretty interesting; Boggs and Ellis are hired by attorneys to essentially recreate accidents to find out how they actually occurred. The book feels...more

A good read, if a little slow burning, with a very quiet ending.

A fascinating idea, about a man whose life is too closely related to car accidents. His brother died in one, he works on investigating them and his bosses wife was his brother's girlfriend at the time of the crash.

He writes well. Nice details, a lot of show and not tell. Telling details dropped into his writing that speak volumes for what is going on.

The novel will not be for those who dislike details of accidents and injuries. Be...more
Ellis Barstow is a forensic reconstructionist; trying to figure what causes automobile accidents. He works with John Boggs as they investigates and discuss crash sites. Boggs is married to Heather (who had introduced Ellis to Boggs) and is also the ex-girlfriend of Ellis’ brother Christopher who died in a car crash when Ellis was young (and still haunts him). And Ellis had a boyhood crush on Heather. Things begin to heat up between the two.

This character driven story is detailed when it comes to...more
This novel was incredibly well-crafted. The reconstructionist business was interesting from the beginning, and although the characters didn't at first resonate with me at all, by the middle of the novel, I was completely hooked and just wanted to know what would happen to them. This novel is an amazingly good depiction of the way that strong emotion can drive you a little crazy. What I really loved about it were the relationships between characters, and how those relationships had a depth and a...more
Lori Anaple
It was well written. But, I just didn't care. I kept waiting for my payoff. I never got it. One thing that bothered me, and this is just me, is that the story was set in Michigan and two real cities were mentioned, Ann Arbor and Livonia. The rest of the cities were made up. I live in MI and used to live in Livonia. Instead of generic descriptions and a made up city of Coil, I would have loved to see some actual landmarks. It wouldn't have been too difficult, Arvin attended u of m.

In terms of ch...more
Salina Lam

This is a quiet book. Which isn't necessarily a bad thing. I also consider The Art of Fielding a quiet book as well and I enjoyed that very much. It's a story about people and the things that happen to them; there's no loud explosion or crazy thing that happens, no big climax. For me, those types of books are hit or miss and this was more of a miss. The reason I may have enjoyed TAOF more was because the characters felt more developed and you could feel a connection to some of them. In this boo...more
When he was young, Ellis Barstow, like many young boys, was fascinated by car crashes. Then, one day, he hears the crash that kills his older brother. He grows up to be a reconstructionist--someone who figures out what happened at a car crash by reconstructing the events using science and tools.

His mentor and boss is John Boggs, whom Ellis looks up to, but not enough to keep him away from having an affair with Boggs' wife.

Boggs goes off the rails when he finds out, and Ellis sets out to find hi...more
3.5. I wouldn't recommend this book, however, I found myself enjoying it. I loved the quirky characters and how their lives were weaved together to the ridiculous point. I loved the tongue in cheek humor. And I never thought about the folks who do reconstruct accidents for a living and how their lives are different because of it. Driving is about taking risks you are willing to take on any given day - this I won't forget......and how life can and does change by a single accident!
A very interesting blend of psychological mystery, literary and philosophical exploration and road trip story. This is not a fast paced thriller by any means but it does pack an emotional punch and there is a undercurrent of tension that drives the story forward. There is a mystery of a sort but the focus is really the relationships and each character's struggle to make sense of them and to understand how they got to where they are in life and in these relationships.
I'm not a fan of when readers give half-stars, but here I give this book 3.5 stars -- I'm between liking it and really liking it. Mostly, it starts out really slow, and doesn't pick up (for me at least) until about 100 pages in, when it becomes almost like a chase novel and gets really interesting. I worry, though, that some readers might be turned off by the slow beginning, though they should stick with it, as it's a good book.
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