Meissner’s newest historical fiction work takes place in 1906 at the time of the tragic San Francisco Earthquake. The Nature of Fragile Things is a study in loss, betrayal and hardship, but it’s also a heartwarming tale of human kindness and decency, friendship, and a fierce, protective love of those we call our family.
Sophie Whalen, a young Irish immigrant, followed her older brother to New York after losing her beloved father and falling into an abusive relationship with a man she thought would love her. Now desperate to leave the terrible living situation at a crowded tenement, she answers an ad for a mail order bride to go to San Francisco and become a wife and mother of a widower and his daughter. Her new husband, Martin Hocking, is devastatingly handsome, though he shows no interest in her. Sophie feel lucky to have a nice home and pours all of her love and energy into Martin’s 5 year old daughter, Kat, who has been silent ever since her mother passed away. She only hopes that Martin will eventually grow to care for her. An insurance salesman, Martin is often gone for days at a time, and Sophie is happy to get to know Kat better during their time together.
Then, on the morning of a record-breaking earthquake, while Martin is away, a very pregnant stranger shows up at Sophie’s door looking for her husband, a man named James. As Sophie talks with the kind, but scared stranger, Belinda, it soon becomes apparent that her husband “James” is the same man as Sophie’s husband, Martin. As the two women begin to piece together the stories they have been told by their shared husband, they realize that he is not the man he claims to be. Then Martin arrives home, Belinda’s water breaks, and the earthquake begins wreaking total havoc on the city. Meissner writes of the earthquake, “It is the nature of the earth to shift. It is the nature of fragile things to break. It is the nature of fire to burn.”
What happens next will change the lives of three women, at first strangers, but woven together by the deceit and betrayal of a man they thought they could trust. Meissner writes, “maybe that should make us enemies. But in truth, it has bound us together like family. Like kindred souls.” Another beautiful way the author describes their relationship is the following passage. “When people are thrown into an abyss and together find their way out of it, they are not the same people. They are bound to each other ever after, linked together at the core of who they are because it was together that they escaped a terrible fate.”
As you can see from the passages, Meissner’s writing is vivid, capturing the raw emotions of women caught up in a web of lies and false promises from a very good-looking and deceitful man. The plot is gripping and intriguing, unfolding during a time of tragic disaster and the aftermath. The story is well-researched. Perhaps my favorite part are the three strong female characters who choose happiness and work hard to make a better life for the children in their care. Fans of Kristin Hannah, Kate Quinn, and Melanie Benjamin will adore this story.
Thank you to Netgalley and Uplit Reads for providing me with an early review copy of this title in exchange for an honest review. #uplitreads #gifted #thenatureoffragilethings @uplitreads @soozmeissner
You can purchase the book here.