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Book Review: The Nature of Fragile Things

By Jessica Oravec

In The Nature of Fragile Things, by Susan Meissner, Sophie is looking for a fresh start. As an Irish immigrant in New York in the early 1900s, she is stuck in the tenements. So, when Martin, a widower and father, places an advertisement looking for a wife, Sophie answers it and moves to San Francisco.

As a traveling insurance agent, Martin is gone a lot, and Sophie adjusts to life with Kat, Martin’s quiet five-year-old daughter. With a roof over her head, new clothes, and a daughter to love, life is good for Sophie. But it all comes crashing down in 1906 when the historic San Francisco earthquake and fire occur. In the span of 24 hours, everything changes, but Sophie is determined to piece her life back together with her daughter.

The Nature of Fragile Things is filled with characters who seem fragile at first: Sophie is so desperate for a fresh start that she becomes a mail-order bride. Kat is so distraught over her mother’s death that she doesn’t speak. And Belinda is a pregnant woman who discovers a devastating secret about her husband. But when everything falls apart around them, when the walls shake and split, and the fire rages out of control, each character finds her own strength.

In the end, the characters learn that fragile things can be broken. It is, in fact, their nature to be broken. But they also learn that they can rise from the rubble, take back their lives, and create something new. Meissner has created characters full of heart and strength while also giving readers a fresh perspective on the San Francisco earthquake and fire of 1906. If you check out The Nature of Fragile Things, you won’t be disappointed.