I have to admit that I wasn’t familiar with the author Lisa Unger, but the description of her newest release, Fragile, immediately appealed to me. While her previous four novels fit into the literary thriller genre, her newest book combines a mystery in the plot with a realistic depiction and exploration of the complex nature of family relationships.
Set in The Hollows, a small town outside of New York City, this novel introduces a large cast of characters, who are all interconnected in some way, from the coincidental to the significant. Much history exists among the key players– the adults among them all attended school together and they have produced the next generation of the town’s families. At the center of the story is Maggie, who couldn’t get out of town fast enough upon graduation but was drawn back in adulthood, seeing the side effects of small town living from a new perspective. She and her husband Jones, also a product of The Hollows and now a detective on the town’s police force, have built a strong foundation in this town, even if their family bonds are shaky due to different viewpoints and approaches on parenting their teenage son.
When their son’s girlfriend goes missing, the question is primarily did she run away to the big city or was foul play involved? In the process of investigating this case, a multitude of memories resurface about a previous missing teenager years ago, back when Maggie and Jones were in high school. Gradually, details are shared with the reader unlocking one decades old mystery while another is being tackled in the present day.
My attention certainly didn’t waver as I read this fast-paced novel, even as several of my predictions were quickly confirmed. Unger explored the dynamics of family relationships well here, from marriages that experience familiar ups and downs, to the long-term effects of abusive and distant parents. While I had some small nitpicking about Unger’s writing style (certain oft-repeated phrases in particular), I remained interested and drawn to the characters she created and invested in discovering the resolutions to both mysteries.
Fragile kept me turning the pages well into the night hours, and the story played out in my imagination as if on a big screen. (In fact, with all the flashbacks to a previously unsolved mystery, I couldn’t help but be reminded of a particular television crime drama!) A small town mystery filled with the effects of abused power and psychological drama made for an engaging read.
Dawn is quite pleased that her life contains very little mystery or intrigue, beyond the occasional marker-on-the-carpet-whodunnit. The boring stories from her life on the stay-at-home-mom front appear on her blog, my thoughts exactly.