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Fragile: A Novel

A book by Lisa Unger

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"A moment of pleasure can lead to a lifetime of pain."

  • Aug 3, 2010
Unger goes off the beaten track in this novel, but not so far as for her work to be unrecognizable. While contemporary, this mystery dredges up a town's past and reawakens dark secrets that have altered the lives of those involved. Not far from New York City, The Hollows enjoys a small town identity, neighbors who have known each other since grade school. The only anomaly is the younger generation, infected by the angst of the times and the usual anti-social behaviors of adolescence, once happy and playful children become sulking teenagers, no longer as pliable or as willing to endure their parents' failings or expectations. Unger uses this generation gap to frame her story, as Maggie, a psychologist returned from NYC to marry a high-school football player turned detective, Jones Cooper, the two raising a son, Ricky. Once a sweet, joyful little boy, Ricky has morphed to a sullen teen, resisting his mother's overtures and in constant conflict with his father.

The twist is in the secret history of The Hollows. When Ricky's girlfriend, Charlene, disappears, everyone remembers another disappearance from years ago, the death of a classmate that has reverberated through the lives of the main characters and left many with uneasy consciences. And for all the disaffection of the younger generation, more than one older resident is disturbed when long-buried secrets are unearthed. While the father-son conflict is exacerbated when Jones investigates Charlene's whereabouts, Maggie jumps to her son's defense to avoid concerns about the state of her marriage, counseling patients in an office connected to her home. Much of the drama is stirred up by Maggie's fears and lack of professional boundaries, but there is no shortage of guilty parties as Unger taps into the small town psyche of The Hollows. Sometimes obvious, sometimes clever, Unger indulges in a lot of emotionalism and the dashed expectations of youth. But that is her style- and her charm- as a writer, the murky territory of memory and forgiveness. Luan Gaines/2010.

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More Fragile: A Novel reviews
review by . November 22, 2010
Maggie and Jones live in the town they grew up in with their teenage son Ricky. When Ricky's girlfriend Charlene disappears, Maggie knows he is not involved but Jones is not so sure. When the polics start asking guestions about Char and her troubled life, the town is forced to relive and reassess the facts of the disappearance 20 years ago of another high school girl, a disappearance that ended with the discovery of a body. As the story unfolds, it becomes clear that the ripples from Sarah's …
review by . September 25, 2010
Maggie and Jones have a relatively happy marriage...but with a teenager in the house sometimes things are tenuous. Their son Ricky is their usual source of conflict; where Maggie sees her beautiful, smart little boy, Jones sees the piercings, tattoos, and dyed black hair as indicators of trouble. When Ricky's goth girlfriend Charlene goes missing, the small, close knit town is rocked to its core. And as a monumental search is launched for Charlene, old wounds are opened in the Hollows; everyone …
review by . August 12, 2010
From “When Jones Cooper was younger, he didn't believe in mistakes” to 323 pages later and “As she told them all about her buried memory, she felt an awe at how all their separate lives were twisted and tangled, growing over an around one another...,” FRAGILE enchants. It is a sensitive, penetrating story of complex people burdened by the past.   Jones, a cop,lives with his psychologist wife, Maggie, and rebellious teenage son, Ricky, in The Hollows, a small …
About the reviewer
Luan Gaines ()
Ranked #110
An artist/writer, I have traveled the world, walked on the moon and learned the complicated language of humanity, the enormity of the universe... all through the written word. My first passport was a … more
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About this book


Set in the Hollows, a secluded town about 100 miles outside New York City, Unger's contemporary thriller offers solid entertainment, but lacks the tension of her 2008 stand-alone, Black Out. Psychologist Maggie Cooper and her husband, Det. Jones Cooper, disagree on how to handle their rebellious son, 17-year-old Rick, who prefers to spend time with his band or holed up with his girlfriend, Charlene Murray. When Charlene disappears one night after a fight with her mother, Maggie and Jones wonder if she ran off to Manhattan, but are reminded of the disappearance 20 years earlier of Sarah Meyers, whose mutilated body was found after she vanished on her way home from school. Though the alleged killer confessed, there are still unanswered questions, and Maggie and Jones find themselves forced to revisit the past as suspicion falls on Rick. Since the Hollows is so small, characters continually rehash secrets--and rumors--so that Unger relies too heavily on the community's interconnectedness to bolster her plot.
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ISBN-10: 0307393992
ISBN-13: 978-0307393999
Author: Lisa Unger
Genre: Fiction
Publisher: Crown
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