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Thursday, July 09, 2009

Dismantled: Too Much "Ick" for True Enjoyment

Have you ever gotten halfway through a book and thought to yourself, "Why am I still reading this?" That was my experience with Jennifer McMahon's Dismantled, except that I repeated the question 1/3 of the way, 1/2 of the way, 3/4 of the way, etc. My reluctance had nothing to do with a slow plot, shoddy writing or dull characters - it had everything to do with McMahon's constant use of profanity, some fairly graphic sex scenes, and the depressing tone of the novel. As much as I wanted to cast the book aside, though, the plot kept me riveted. I had to find out what happened. So, I finished Dismantled, but I can't quite decide what to say about it.

The story revolves around Henry and Tess DeForge, a couple who are drifting further and further apart every day. Emma, their 9-year-old daughter, will do anything to keep them together. When she begins snooping through her father's things, she discovers that her parents were part of a college group called the Compassionate Dismantlers. Reuniting them with their old friends seems like a good way to help them rekindle the passion they must have felt back then. Tossing a handful of postcards into the mailbox seems innocent enough, but Emma's desperate act will have dire repercussions for her and everyone she loves.

As Henry's past comes crawling into the present, he heads straight for the bottle. But Jack Daniels is no match for the memories that have haunted Henry since the Dismantlers dismantled. He remembers the group's beginning - under the seductive leadership of Suz Pierce, five art students assembled to commit meaningful acts of eco-terrorism. Soon, however, what started as a social statement became Suz's tool for exacting revenge on everyone who wronged her. It didn't take long for things to go awry. While living together in a lakeside cabin, the friends committed an unspeakable act. In abject terror, the group dissolved, swearing never to speak of the incident. Now it seems someone wants to reunite the Dismantlers. But why?

Emma has no idea what kind of monster she's unleashed. She's only following directions from Danner, her mischevious invisible friend. All she wants is for her parents to stay together, but with messages mysteriously painted on trees, a P.I. poking around, and the appearance of a strange woman, Henry and Tess are more freaked out than ever. As events spiral out of her control, Emma finds herself caught up in the mess created by her parents' past. The question is: Can any of them escape unscathed?

The whole past-coming-back-to-haunt-the-present thing has fueled plenty of novels, but I still love the device. It makes stories deliciously suspenseful. With a little bit of the supernatural thrown in, McMahon gives her version a nice, spine-tingling twist. Still, it's got the traditional tension build-up, followed by a heart-pounding, truth-revealing finale. McMahon rounds out her story with intriguing, very human characters. They are a tortured, depressing bunch, but they're interesting. If it hadn't been for the swearing, the sex scenes, and the bizarre ending, I probably would have really liked Dismantled. Unfortunately, all the "ick" kept me from truly enjoying the read. I did learn something, though: If I have to ask myself (repeatedly), "Why am I still reading this book?" then I really shouldn't be wasting my time.

Grade: C

If this was a movie, it would be rated: R for excessive profanity, sexual content, drug use, and violence.


  1. I just posted my review to this one today also. It was way too long, but I still liked it. I did think her book Promise Not to Tell was her best!

  2. This sounds like an interesting book. After reading Chuck Palahniuk, I can handle the "ick." LOL I appreciate the honest review.

    Diary of an Eccentric

  3. I feel the same way about the "ick" stuff, though I usually feel obligated to finish a book (for weird reasons). I've just started to feel ok putting a book down.


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