Review: The Nature of Fragile Things

The Nature of Fragile Things by Susan Meissner
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The latest novel by Susan Meissner, author of As Bright as Heaven, one of my favorite books of 2018, takes us to 1906 San Francisco, the year of the great earthquake. Meissner likes to weave her tales around major events (like the influenza pandemic of 1918 in Philadelphia in As Bright as Heaven). In this novel, she follows Sophie Whelan, an Irish immigrant who has been living in New York City. Sophie has answered an advertisement posted by Martin Hocking, a man looking for a wife and mother for his five-year-old daughter Kat. She corresponds with Martin and ends up moving to San Francisco and marrying the strange and strikingly handsome man. Sophie quickly becomes a loving mother to poor little Kat, a child who believes her mother died because of her, and who barely speaks when Sophie comes into her life. Her relationship with Martin, however, is one that never progresses. Why would a handsome man like Martin Hocking look for a mail-order bride? What is his job and why is he gone so much of the time? Who is Martin Hocking, really? When a pregnant woman named Belinda Bigelow shows up on Sophie's doorstep in the swanky Russian Hill district of San Francisco, looking for Martin and saying her husband James has disappeared after taking a job with him, Sophie and Kat's world begins to unravel. And so does Belinda's. Just as the three of them make plans to leave San Francisco, the earthquake of 1906 and Martin Hocking change the course of their lives.

This book had far more of an element of mystery and suspense to it than other Meissner novels I've read. The story works well and the twists and turns keep going to the end of the novel. The relationship between Sophie, Kat, Belinda, her little daughter Sarah, and... another woman I shall not name for fear of spoilers... form such a unique and perfect found family. Mothers, daughters, and found sisters have always been integral to Meissner's stories and so it is here. The mystery of Martin Hocking, and of Sophie herself, is a pleasure to read.

The audiobook is nicely narrated in a soft brogue by Alana Kerr Collins, and with Jason Culp voicing a US Marshall.

I received a digital review copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

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