Tuesday, August 10, 2021

The Nature of Fragile Things by Susan Meissner


Well it feels kind of fitting to finish a book about a  natural disaster on the one year anniversary of a natural disaster that hit my hometown on August 10, 2020: the Derecho. An inland hurricane in Iowa. One year later we are still dealing with recovery. And wouldn't you know, we've had one severe storm today, and I can hear rumblings of another getting ready to break tonight. To say folks around here are a bit jumpy wouldn't be an exaggeration. 

The Nature of Fragile Things is about two natural disasters: the San Francisco Earthquake of 1906, and the natural disaster of one horrible man causing heartache and havoc (with a side of murder) in the lives of three different women. 

Sophie Whalen arrives in San Francisco ready to marry Martin Hocking and become mother to his young daughter. She's been living in New York after arriving from Ireland, and was miserable living in a tenement and working at a factory. Answering a mail order bride ad in the newspaper brings Sophie to San Francisco and the hope of a new life. Martin Hocking is handsome, no doubt, but there's something just a bit off about him. He's all work and there's not an ounce of warmth in him. His daughter Kat doesn't speak much at all after the death of her mother. Martin makes no attempts to help Kat through her issues and gladly hands her off to Sophie. Sophie of course loves Kat to bits and embraces her role as a mother. 

Things with Martin get even more strange when a woman named Belinda arrives on their doorstep, asking for help. Here's where things get really odd, and the story starts to unfold. But first, there's a major earthquake to survive--but does everyone survive?

Sophie starts out as what seems to be a innocent young woman, just so relieved to finally have a safe place to land. However, it quickly becomes apparent that she's one tough lady, not afraid to protect herself and Kat by any means necessary. Sophie is no pushover. There are hints about her life in Ireland, but it remains in the shadows-you know something happened, just not sure what. 

The story takes a few dips and twists--some which aren't really surprising, but it's an interesting plot. I was a bit disappointed the earthquake wasn't more prominent, but I will have to read some non-fiction books about it to fill my interest in all of it. 

There is a final chapter that helps close some of the questions left in the story; it offers a glimpse of what becomes of Kat, Sophie, and Belinda years down the road.  

An interesting novel that read quickly. The women are all strong, and remain so through their trials and low points. Martin is the true bad guy, who just keeps showing new unpleasant sides to his personality and motives. 

Rating: 3/6 for an interesting historical novel about surviving the San Francisco Earthquake of 1906. It's a reminder of the strength of women to overcome bad marriages, abusive spouses, and disappointments; surviving it all to keep going. It's also a novel about female friendship, unbreakable bonds, and the love of a mother and child.  

Available in hardcover, ebook, and audio. 

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