Review: The Nature of Fragile Things by Susan Meissner

Title: The Nature of Fragile Things by Susan Meissner
Publisher: Berkley
Genre: Historical, Women’s Fiction
Length: 384 pages
Book Rating: B+

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley


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 a mail-order bride ad and agrees to marry a man she knows nothing about. San Francisco widower Martin Hocking proves to be as aloof as he is mesmerizingly handsome. Sophie quickly develops deep affection for Kat, Martin’s silent five-year-old daughter, but Martin’s odd behavior leaves her with the uneasy feeling that something about her newfound situation isn’t right.

Then one early-spring evening, a stranger at the door sets in motion a transforming chain of events. Sophie discovers hidden ties to two other women. The first, pretty and pregnant, is standing on her doorstep. The second is hundreds of miles away in the American Southwest, grieving the loss of everything she once loved.

The fates of these three women intertwine on the eve of the devastating earthquake, thrusting them onto a perilous journey that will test their resiliency and resolve and, ultimately, their belief that love can overcome fear.

From the acclaimed author of The Last Year of the War and As Bright as Heaven comes a gripping novel about the bonds of friendship and mother love, and the power of female solidarity.


The Nature of Fragile Things by Susan Meissner is a captivating mail-order bride novel that takes place in the early 1900s.

Sophie Whalen immigrated from Ireland to New York but she is ready for a change. She works long hours for not much pay and shares a room with several other women. When she spies Martin Hocking’s advertisement for a mail-order bride, she does not hesitate to write to him. Sophie is thrilled when he chooses her to marry him and take care of his five year daughter Kat. Traveling across the country to San Francisco, Sophie settles into her new life.  She is surprised by how much time he spends away from home due to his job, but she and Kat settle into a new routine. But the night before the San Francisco earthquake, Sophie is shocked when a visitor arrives on her doorstep and turns her world upside down.

Sophie might be young but she is smart and quite savvy. She is pragmatic but loving so she relishes caring for Kat. The young girl is clearly traumatized by the death of her mother, but Sophie is patient with her stepdaughter. She is taken aback by how distant her new husband is, but she uses this time to get to know him.  He has opened up a little to her about his past but he reveals little about his job or the company he works for. Although their marriage finally takes an intimate turn, Sophie is stunned by how little she knows about Martin after learning stunning news about him.

After she gets over her shock at what she discovers when Belinda knocks on her door, Sophie finally does much needed investigation into Martin.  She and Belinda have barely come to terms with jaw-dropping information when the earthquake strikes and they are suddenly homeless. They emerge unscathed and after a few days, Sophie, Kat and Belinda begin the next stage in their new lives. Sophie puts Kat’s needs ahead of her own and she wonders what the future will hold for both her and her stepdaughter.

The Nature of Fragile Things is a thoroughly engrossing novel that is impossible to put down. Sophie is a wonderful young woman who does whatever it takes to protect herself and anyone she cares for.  Through a series of interviews, startling details emerge that could destroy the life Sophie has created for herself.  Susan Meissner brings this enchanting novel  to an uplifting conclusion. I absolutely loved and highly recommend this riveting novel to fans of the genre.

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