The Fragile World
Moving on after a family tragedy when your world has fallen apart is a monumental task and one not easily accomplished, as Paula Treick DeBoard has reinforced in THE FRAGILE WORLD. After all, dealing with love and loss is not something we as humans accept readily, especially when the circumstances surrounding the passing of a loved one are called into question. For this reason, I feel her story of a grieving family is not only deeply moving, but also cathartic. With a subtle eloquence for expressing strong emotions in her writing --- such as grief and despair --- she allows her characters to experience a psychological healing, which seems to be the underlying theme throughout the book. Although this tale deals with a grievous topic, I find the narrative to be unequivocally healing and enjoyable.
Producing a storyline rich with raw and real emotions is quite a task, but DeBoard has accomplished this with well-paced and poetically written dialogue that evokes realism. Utilizing only three main characters and with a definite attention to detail, the author never shies away from the gripping truth within and between her characters.Undeniably, everyone reacts to death differently. For some, the process of grieving is more bearable than for others, which is why the reader can identify with one or more of the protagonists in THE FRAGILE WORLD, as they transition from point A to wherever their loss takes them.
"Producing a storyline rich with raw and real emotions is quite a task, but DeBoard has accomplished this with well-paced and poetically written dialogue that evokes realism."
The Kaufmans are your typical, everyday family. Curtis is a teacher, and his wife, Kathleen, restores furniture. They never expected that their world would be rocked beyond recognition when their son, Daniel, is killed in a horrible accident while he is away at college. As the older brother of Olivia (a secure and happy preteen) and a revered son (excelling at everything he does), Daniel’s loss is a tragedy that can’t be overcome easily. Consequently, the family implodes, not able to go on.
As a story filled with despair and hopelessness, there is still a sense of resiliency that seems to propel Curtis, Kathleen and Olivia forward, so they don’t completely shut down and become engulfed in their own grief. Eventually, Kathleen moves out, no longer able to live with the memories. Curtis and Olivia maintain the family home, and ultimately move through their lives without any real direction. Even though some resiliency plans might not be as promising as others --- one of them has tragic implications --- the pretense of at least moving proves beneficial in their healing process.
Subsequently, Curtis can’t navigate his self-imposed exile from life. After suffering a mini-breakdown, he decides to take matters into his own hands and come to terms with his resiliency plan --- killing the man he thinks is responsible for murdering his son. So, with a newfound sense of purpose, he formulates a plan that involves cross-country travel, spending time with Olivia, and murder. Not surprisingly, as the latter scenarios play out, Olivia experiences her own self-imposed exile. Suffering from debilitating anxiety and incapable of meeting life on her own terms, she runs from it, only able to communicate her phobias through a journal describing all of her fears. First and foremost among them is loss.
The poignant and meaningful moments that Olivia and Daniel spend on their cross-country journey to rendezvous with Kathleen and destiny are compelling. An engaging plot, coupled with unexpected twists and characters who tear at your heartstrings, makes THE FRAGILE WORLD a most enjoyable read. This is a story that highlights the ordinary and mundane tasks of everyday living and how, when our lives are interrupted by a distasteful turn of events, a new normal can take its place.
Reviewed by Donna Smallwood on October 31, 2014
The Fragile World
- Publication Date: October 28, 2014
- Genres: Fiction
- Paperback: 432 pages
- Publisher: Mira
- ISBN-10: 0778316769
- ISBN-13: 9780778316763