Review: The Fragile World

Posted 14 November, 2014 by Lianne in Books / 0 Comments

The Fragile World
By: Paula Treick DeBoard
Format/Source: Advanced Reading Copy courtesy of Harlequin Mira via GoodReads First Reads Programme

The Kaufmans have always considered themselves a normal, happy family. Curtis is a physics teacher at a local high school. His wife, Kathleen, restores furniture for upscale boutiques. Daniel is away at college on a prestigious music scholarship, and twelve-year-old Olivia is a happy-go-lucky kid whose biggest concern is passing her next math test.

And then comes the middle-of-the-night phone call that changes everything. Daniel has been killed in what the police are calling a freak accident, and the remaining Kaufmans are left to flounder in their grief. The anguish of Daniel’s death is isolating, and it’s not long before this once perfect family find themselves falling apart. As time passes and the wound refuses to heal, Curtis becomes obsessed with the idea of revenge, a growing mania that leads him to pack up his life and his anxious teenage daughter and set out on a collision course to right a wrong.

An emotionally charged novel, The Fragile World is a journey through America’s heartland and a family’s brightest and darkest moments, exploring the devastating pain of losing a child and the beauty of finding healing in unexpected ways.

Like any book, it was the premise that caught my attention. I suppose what especially caught my interest about this novel is the concept of how a family copes after such tragedy. Their tragedy is really a family’s nightmare (not just the parents’, I would argue). This book will be available on 28 October 2014.

The Fragile World follows the Kaufmans after the loss of their son, Daniel. The grief is raw and quite palpable throughout the book, of how his death has changed the rest of their lives forever. The book follows the perspectives of Olivia and Curtis, whose grief manifests itself in different ways and who overall provides interesting takes on their responses to Daniel’s death. It was also interesting because I was initially surprised that the mother Katherine was not given a POV; then I found out what happened, and while it made sense not to give her a perspective, it was still odd. In fact, I found her overall response a little odd. Mourning and grief affects people in different ways, but it was interesting and strange how Katherine’s response was totally different from that of her husband and her daughter. Do I blame her for stepping back the way she did? No. And yet at the same time it’s irking that she was hands-off as Olivia and Curtis spiral off into versions of themselves that are wholly unrecognisable. There are no right answers in this case, so it’s interesting altogether that it was raised to begin with.

Curtis and Olivia’s journey to visit Katherine in Omaha after a “moment” back in Sacramento is not only a physical road trip but also an emotional and character journey. Olivia slowly opens up and begins to face her fears, many of which she had been writing down over the years in her “fear journal.” Curtis’ journey on the other hand takes a darker turn as he becomes obsessed in righting and wrong and facing the man who killed his son. It’s tense as there are plenty of opportunities in which Curtis was almost caught, and the climax of his efforts was just harrowing.

The Fragile World thus is a meditation of loss and grief and the ways it can affect both the individual and the family unit. It’s a stressful read; you feel for the characters, and yet their trajectories, especially that of Curtis, leaves the reader feeling uneasy. Nonetheless it’s an interesting meditation on grief and tragedy and the different ways in which people acknowledge and work through them. I would recommend this title for readers of contemporary adult fiction, though you may need to be in a particular mood to read it.

Rating: ★★★☆☆

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