The Nature of Fragile Things [Book Review] #HistoricalFiction

February 1, 2021

The Nature of Fragile Things by Susan Meissner

The ature of Fragile Things by Susan Meissner (cover) Image: a blue toned image of a young woman and a young girl holding hands and walking down the middle of a earthquake damaged street

Genre/Categories: Historical Fiction, 1906 San Francisco Earthquake, Friendship, Women’s Fiction, Found Family, Thriller

*This post contains Amazon affiliate links.

My Summary:

Thanks #NetGalley @BerkleyPub #BerkleyBuddyReads for my complementary e arc of #TheNatureOfFragileThings upon my request. All opinions are my own.

Desperate to leave a deplorable situation in New York City, Sophie Whalen, a young Irish immigrant, agrees to become a mail-order bride. Sophie marries the handsome, but aloof, widower named Martin Hocking and becomes attached to his five-year-old daughter. Martin is away from home frequently. During one absence, a mysterious visitor knocks on Sophie’s door, and from that moment on, their lives are intertwined. The great San Francisco earthquake of 1906 is just one of the traumatic events they will face together.

My Thoughts:

E A R T H Q U A K E !

Earthquake: If you live in an area of the country that is prone to earthquakes as I do, Meissner’s story will affect you on a personal and practical level. Where would you go when your house is falling down around you? How will you care for those in your care? Would you have the courage to live in a tent city as you watch beloved neighborhoods burn? Now imagine yourself in 1906…. Where are the first responders? Where is the fire department? The paramedics? Where is the Red Cross? How will you get fresh water? Blankets? Where can two women and a young girl sleep safely? Now imagine yourself giving birth in these circumstances! It wasn’t difficult for me to imagine myself in this earthquake!

damaged three story house in the San Francisco earthquake

Image Source: Wikipedia

Characters: I love a strong character! Sophie is compassionate, caring, loyal, brave, and determined. At this time in history, women didn’t have a great deal of resources when they found themselves victims of an earthquake or when mistreated or betrayed by a man. Even if mistreatment was reported, the police often sided with the men. Women learned to rely on themselves and the strength and wisdom of women around them. The Nature of Fragile Things explores the bonds of friendship and unconditional support between three women….each mistreated by Martin. Each woman is a complex character and strong in her own way; together they work a daring plan to save themselves.

Genre Mash Up: The Nature of Fragile Things is a mix of genres: historical fiction/suspense/mystery/women’s fiction. I think this makes for an interesting and complex read! Historical facts about the San Francisco earthquake are well researched; we wonder where Martin is and what he’s up to through most of the story which adds some suspense; a detective questions Sophie throughout the story (in present day) and causes us to wonder if he will bring charges against her; we are concerned about the fate of Martin as a result of the earthquake; and we are presented with issues important to women.

Themes: The Nature of Fragile Things is a complex story and has some thoughtful and powerful themes including friendship, working together, trust, community, found family, survival, second chances, actions taken in desperation, moral ambiguity, and women in vulnerable circumstances.

Trigger Warnings/Content Consideration: brief reference to spousal abuse and miscarriage

Highly Recommended for fans of Susan Meissner’s, for readers who love a histfic genre mash up; for those who might be interested in reading about imagined lives experiencing the 1906 San Francisco earthquake, and for book clubs. If I were in book club, I would definitely want to discuss moral ambiguity.

Related: Meissner is an auto-buy author for me, and you can depend on her for a solid read! Three favorite books by Susan Meissner: A Fall of Marigolds (my favorite of hers!), As Bright As Heaven (a favorite, too!), The Last Year of the War.

My Rating:  4.5 Stars (rounded to 5 Stars)


The Nature of Fragile Things by Susan Meissner (cover) Image: blue-toned picture of a woman and young girl holding hands and walking down railroad tracks with backs to camerai

The Nature of Fragile Things Information Here

Meet the Author, Susan Meissner

Author, Susan Meissner (head shot, wearing a coral cardigan leaning against a wood slat wall)Susan Meissner is the USA Today bestselling author of historical fiction with more than half a million books in print in fifteen languages. Her novels include The Last Year of the War, a Library Reads and Real Simple top pick; As Bright as Heaven, which received a starred review from Library Journal; Secrets of a Charmed Life, a 2015 Goodreads Choice award finalist; and A Fall of Marigolds, named to Booklist’s Top Ten women’s fiction titles for 2014. She is also RITA finalist and Christy Award and Carol Award winner. A California native, she attended Point Loma Nazarene University and is also a writing workshop volunteer for Words Alive, a San Diego non-profit dedicated to helping at-risk youth foster a love for reading and writing.
Visit Susan at her website: and on Twitter at @SusanMeissner or at


Is The Nature of Fragile Things on your TBR or have you read it?
Are you a Susan Meissner fan?

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Unless explicitly stated that they are free, all books that I review have been purchased by me or borrowed from the library.

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  1. Oooh love books set in San Francisco, even more when it’s about its past. Will have to add it to my tbr.

  2. I’ve never been in a major earthquake, but this book is so atmospheric that it really brings the panic, fear, and destruction of one to life! I loved that it had such a strong sense of place as well as interesting characters, a mystery that surprised me, and a compelling plot. It’s one of Meissner’s best, in my opinion. Glad you enjoyed it as much as I did!


    • It’s really good Susan! I think Meissner challenged herself to do some things she’s never tried before and it paid off! It’s a complex story…..I’m happy to hear we both enjoyed it!

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  4. The Nature of Fragile Things: I loved this book. A word of caution though: don’t start reading it if you have anything important that must get done, it’s very hard to put down.

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