The Nature of Fragile Things

By Susan Meissner,

Book cover of The Nature of Fragile Things

Book description

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…

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Why read it?

3 authors picked The Nature of Fragile Things as one of their favorite books. Why do they recommend it?

I am recommending this book because it shows the emotional side of three separate women who have survived the 1906 San Francisco earthquake. We have all heard about big tragedies, but I like books that focus on a specific historical figure that was there. This book shows these women defeat the odds and overcome tragedy simply by banding together. These types of books always give me hope and courage to face obstacles in my own life.

Sophie emigrates from Ireland and answers an ad from a widower in San Francisco who wants a bride. The novel is told in first person, which is somewhat unusual for historical fiction (although my own book is done that way). This point of view gives immediacy to the horror of the earthquake, which entangles Sophie’s life with that of a pregnant girl and a woman in the Southwest, creating a web of dark secrets and lies. I enjoyed this book because it told a greater tale of women’s solidarity, and what a woman will do to protect her children. 

Set in 1906 during the incredibly destructive San Francisco earthquake, this novel follows Irish immigrant Sophie Whalen who chose to leave poverty in New York City to become a mail-order bride for widower Martin Hocking and his young daughter. Don’t be tempted to believe this is just another mail-order bride story or even a romance for that matter. The story contains a mystery to be solved with characters to sort out. I was surprised by the story’s unfolding, finding it unpredictable, which is a good thing. I love Susan Meissner’s writing, so fluid, so emotional.

From Cindy's list on Irish immigrant historical fiction.

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