Sunday, February 21, 2021

Review: The Nature of Fragile Things by Susan Meissner


Title: The Nature of Fragile Things
Author: Susan Meissner
Published: February 2021, Berkley Books
Format: ARC E-copy, 384 pages
Source: Netgalley via Publisher

April 18, 1906: A massive earthquake rocks San Francisco just before daybreak, igniting a devouring inferno. Lives are lost, lives are shattered, but some rise from the ashes forever changed.

Sophie Whalen is a young Irish immigrant so desperate to get out of a New York tenement that she answers a mail-order bride ad and agrees to marry a man she knows nothing about. San Francisco widower Martin Hocking proves to be as aloof as he is mesmerizingly handsome. Sophie quickly develops deep affection for Kat, Martin's silent five-year-old daughter, but Martin's odd behavior leaves her with the uneasy feeling that something about her newfound situation isn't right.

Then one early-spring evening, a stranger at the door sets in motion a transforming chain of events. Sophie discovers hidden ties to two other women. The first, pretty and pregnant, is standing on her doorstep. The second is hundreds of miles away in the American Southwest, grieving the loss of everything she once loved.

The fates of these three women intertwine on the eve of the devastating earthquake, thrusting them onto a perilous journey that will test their resiliency and resolve and, ultimately, their belief that love can overcome fear.

From the acclaimed author of The Last Year of the War and As Bright as Heaven comes a gripping novel about the bonds of friendship and mother love, and the power of female solidarity.

My thoughts: This is the third book I've read by Susan Meissner but it might be my favorite one yet. She has such an uncanny ability to write such captivating historical fiction, and this latest one delves into my newest favorite subgenre - the historical mystery...which just hooked me even more!

I loved the way this story was structured. Having it start with an interview between Sophie and a U.S. Marshall really grabbed my attention and I felt that it never let up. What happened to Sophie's husband, Martin Hocking after the earthquake?  I was completely absorbed and captivated by this story the entire time, loving how throughout the book snippets of the interview would be thrown in, each time giving us just a little more. This just piqued my curiosity even further as I tried to put all the pieces together. 

I love how the author uses the backdrop of the San Francisco earthquake to crack open the major fault lines that tie our characters together. This is where we start to see the secrets of our characters come to light. And all along, you know that these characters have their secrets. But there is also good to come of this. There are friendships that are forged from this earthquake, friendships that happen from three women that had no ties beforehand.

This book is a such a unique blend of history and suspense. It is a story about friendship and courage, what it means to love and what it means to belong. I did not know anything about the earthquake in San Francisco in 1906, yet I felt transported there as I was reading. I was completely immersed in this character-driven historical fiction novel from page one and I cannot recommend it enough!


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