Book Review — Fragile

Title:  Fragile
Author:  Lisa Unger
Genre:  Crime fiction, thriller
Pages:  Hardback, 323
ISBN:  978-0-307-39399-9
Opening Lines:  "When Jones Cooper was younger, he didn't believe in mistakes.  He thought that every road led you somewhere and wherever you wound up, that's where you belonged."

Rating


"Everybody knows everybody in The Hollows, a quaint, charming town outside of New York City. It's a place where neighbors keep an eye on one another's kids, where people say hello in the grocery store, and where high schoo cliques and antics are never quite forgotten. As a child, Maggie found living under the microscope of small-town life stifling. But as a wife and mother, she has happily returned to The Hollows's insular embrace. As a psychologist, her knowledge of family histories provides powerful insights into her patients' lives. So when the girlfriend of her teenage son, Rick, disappears, Maggie's intuitive gift proves to be useful to the case—and also dangerous.

"Eerie parallels soon emerge between Charlene's diappearance and the abduction of another local girl that shook the community years ago when Maggie was a teenager. The investigation has her husband, Jones, the lead detective on the case, acting strangely. Rick, already a brooding teenager, becomes even more withdrawn. In a town where the past is always present, nobody is above suspicion, not even a son in the eyes of his father.

"'I know how a moment can spiral out of control,' Jones says to a shocked Maggie as he searches Rick's room for incriminating evidence. 'How the consequences of one careless action can cost you everything.'

"As she tries to reassure him that Rick embodies his father in all of the important ways, Maggie realizes this might be exactly what Jones fears most. Determined to uncover the truth, Maggie pursues her own leads into Charlene's disappearance and exposes a long-buried town secret—one that could destroy everything she holds dear. This chilling novel is about one community's intricate yet fragile bonds will leave readers asking How well do I know the people I love? and How far will I go to protect them?"

~ Jacket copy


Since the start of last fall semester and moving into student teaching, it has been nearly impossible for me to get into a book.  Even if some shred of it happens to grab my attention, nothing is able to keep me from putting it down.  Coming home after being at the high school from 7:30am-3:45pm five days a week, lesson planning, ceaseless grading, and attending to school work, mind-numbing TV was far more appealing.  However, that did not stop my desire to read.  Oftentimes, I found myself crying in my couch to my poor husband about the deep depression I was sinking into because I couldn't read.  All the while, Pinterest kept telling me about the best horror, thrillers, and suspense books popping up all over the place.  In one last effort to force myself to read, I picked up Bone and Ink by Lisa Unger.  Even though it took me nearly three months to finish, it really grabbed my attention while I was reading it.  After that, I decided to give her other books a chance!  Since this book takes place in the same town and shares a few of the same characters, it was the one I brought home.


Charlene is a desperate, lonely girl who is struggling to find her place in the world.  Preyed upon by her stepfather and spurned by her mother, she puts on a false front of bravado, claiming that she is going to ditch town, move to New York, and make it big in the music scene.  Marshall Crosby is a troubled boy who happens to be caught in a vicious cycle of paternal abuse.  Even when he is taken out of it, he willingly goes back in one last attempt to win his father's approval.  Ricky is doing everything he can to live outside of his father's shadow—the police detective, Jones Cooper.  Unfortunately, he is doing nothing more than driving a wedge between his parents, Jones and Maggie.  While Maggie desperately tries to reunite father and son, something far more nefarious is happening in The Hollows.  Everything comes to a head when Charlene disappears.



Sitting in front of the blinking cursor and blank page, I find it extremely hard to find the words to explain this book.  As I mentioned before, reading has been nothing short of arduous on the best of days.  Something about the character driven plot of Ink and Bone was able to draw me in when other books failed.  I felt as though Lisa Unger's unique writing style, use of words, and command of prose might be the key to demolishing this blockage. 

In many ways, Fragile is very similar.  Unger takes time to artfully craft her characters and flesh out the town of The Hollows through characters' memories, small asides, and anecdotes.  The town is turned into as much a character as Jones or Charlene.  Even the secondary characters have more depth than you would expect because of the hinted backstories and history with the main characters.

When Charlene—a seemingly rebellious teen—disappears, the outwardly idyllic town of The Hollows is shaken to its core as it is forced to remember the disappearance and murder of another girl several decades before.  In an effort to right a wrong, Jones Cooper sets out on a quest to save Charlene and prove she is not merely a girl running away from a troubled home.  As he races against the clock to save her life, long-buried secrets are brought to the surface.  These secrets weave a web connecting  both parents and adults.

Looking back, I felt as though parts of this book were a bit haphazard and were possibly lost in translation.  As an example, Tommy Delano seemed a bit random.  I fully understood what Unger was attempting to do; however, she was a bit sloppy in the execution.  Also, Eloise was rather out of place.  If I had not read Ink and Bone before this, I wouldn't have been able to fully understand why she was even mentioned. 

The complex, interconnected backstories make this book a slow burn.  Yet, Unger is able to show the curses and blessings of living in a small town.  Fragile walks away with four stars because it was able to draw me in and keep me reading just to determine whether my predictions were correct.  And, if I'm honest, it gave me the chance to take my mind off of the uncertainty in my own life.




Much love, Sinn

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"If you’re a freak like me, Wave your flag! If you’re a freak like me, Get off your ass! It’s our time now, To let it all hang out!" I am a recovering English major, closet bibliophile, breve addicted, zombie lover with a rockabilly and heavy metal fetish.