Title: The Fragile World by Paula Treick DeBoard
Publisher: Harlequin Mira
Genre: Contemporary, Fiction
Length: 432 pages
Book Rating: B
Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher
From the author of stunning debut The Mourning Hours comes a powerful new novel that explores every parent’s worst nightmare…
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” road 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 finds itself 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 the way back to hope.
The Fragile World by Paula Treick DeBoard is a heart-wrenching, poignant and at times, humorous, novel. This compelling story about the Kaufman family and the aftermath of a tragic loss is an intense and emotional journey for parents Curtis and Kathleen and their daughter Olivia. The plot is mostly character driven novel but the final chapters are action packed as the story races to a suspenseful (and very surprising) conclusion.
The Kaufman’s happy life ends with a devastating phone call about the death of their oldest son Daniel. Each of the family members grieves and copes with his death in very different ways: Curtis is obsessed with bringing the man responsible for the terrible accident to justice while Kathleen is proactive about getting the family into therapy and copes by keeping busy. Twelve year old Olivia becomes anxiety ridden and overwhelmed with fears about anything and everything that could go wrong. Fast forward a few years and their lives completely implode when Curtis receives a letter that puts in motion a chain of events that culminate in a cross country trip that ends in a way that no one could possibly imagine.
The Fragile World is written in third person and alternates between Curtis and Olivia’s perspectives. Curtis is a sympathetic, yet frustrating character and it is impossible to fully like him as his continued obsession turns dangerous. Olivia is a heartbreaking character as she battles her anxiety by compulsively recording her fears in her notebooks and eventually disengaging from normal life. She is the keeper of her father’s secrets and although her efforts might be misguided, she is trying to protect him the best way she knows how.
The overall pacing of the novel is rather slow until Curtis and Olivia embark on their road trip. Curtis’s behavior is almost manic during the journey and although he has a few reservations about what he plans to do, he never wavers from his decision. Olivia is almost panic stricken as she is forced from the safe cocoon she has created for herself but as she faces her worst fears, her anxiety becomes more manageable. But it is her chance meeting with a young man in Wyoming that proves most healing as she steps briefly steps out of her crazy world and into normal teenage life.
The Fragile World is a well-written and absorbing novel that is quite thought-provoking. It is an intriguing character study that will surprise, frustrate and sometimes, delight, readers as they join Curtis and Olivia on their life-altering journey. Paula Treick DeBoard brings the story to a pulse-pounding conclusion that is rather shocking and while the overall ending is hopeful,there are a few lingering questions that remain unanswered.