Saturday, July 11, 2009


Jennifer McMahon is the New York Times bestselling author of the acclaimed Island of Lost Girls and Promise Not to Tell.

She applied the “Page 69 Test” to her new novel Dismantled, and reported the following:
Dismantled tells the story of the Compassionate Dismantlers, a group of college students who band together to form an outlaw art group based on the belief that true art is about taking things apart, not putting them together. The group disintegrates when their leader, Suz, dies and the others decide to cover it up. Ten years later, two of the members, Henry and Tess, are living with their nine-year-old daughter an hour’s drive from the cabin where the Dismantlers spent their final summer. Although they’re trying to keep up the pretense of normalcy, their marriage is falling apart.

When other former Dismantlers receive mysterious postcards bearing Dismantler slogans, a series of tragic events is triggered. It seems as if someone, or something, is determined to dredge up the past Henry and Tess have struggled so hard to put behind them.

On page 69, we find the modern day Henry struggling to begin a sculpture (something he hasn’t attempted since his college days as a Dismantler).

The wood guides the sculpture.

The wood alone knows what it wants to become.

These were the things he believed back in college, this naïve notion of ethereal messages that it was up to him to pick up on, to spell out with his mallet and chisels.

‘Sometimes I think we’re just conduits,’ Tess told him once, years ago, when she sat in his studio space in the corner of the sculpture building at Sexton. ‘Like the art that we make can’t possibly come from us. Do you know what I mean?’

She was sitting cross-legged on the floor, cradling a mug of coffee in both hands. A small-framed, compact girl who hardy took up any space at all, yet she’d say these
things with such fierce intensity in her eyes that they came out like the words of a giant.

Henry nodded. Yes. He felt that way all the time. He was just a pair of hands – someone, something, else was doing the real work.

Dismantled is a complex book – it’s told from multiple points of view, there are characters masquerading as other characters, an imaginary friend who seems to have an agenda all her own. It’s full of twists and turns and deception, none of which are evident on page 69.

Dismantled is also about a broken family and the ways they are each trying to understand the past in order to live in the present. Page 69 is representative of the book in that it gets inside Henry’s head, and takes us from the present day storyline back into the past. It gives us a glimpse of Tess and Henry as idealistic young artists, and shows the older Henry feeling lost and inept. One of the challenges for these characters is facing the ghosts of their past selves – which is almost more frightening than facing the real ghost they come to believe may be haunting them.
Read an excerpt from Dismantled, and learn more about the book and author at Jennifer McMahon's website and MySpace page.

Watch the Dismantled video trailer.

Visit the complete list of books in the Page 69 Test Series.

--Marshal Zeringue