Fragileby Lisa Unger
Maggie and Jones live with their teenage son, Rick, in The Hollows, a small town outside of New York City. The cozy intimacy of the town is broken when Rick’s girlfriend, Charlene, mysteriously disappears. The investigation has Jones, the lead detective on the case, acting strangely and Rick, already a brooding teenager, becomes even more
Maggie and Jones live with their teenage son, Rick, in The Hollows, a small town outside of New York City. The cozy intimacy of the town is broken when Rick’s girlfriend, Charlene, mysteriously disappears. The investigation has Jones, the lead detective on the case, acting strangely and Rick, already a brooding teenager, becomes even more withdrawn. Maggie finds herself drawn in both as a trained psychologist and as a mother, walking a tightrope that threatens the stability of her family. Determined to uncover the truth, Maggie pursues her own leads into Charlene’s disappearance and exposes a long-buried town secret—one that could destroy everything she holds dear.
“Intriguing, downright frightening. . . . [It] will keep readers on the edge of their seats until the very last sentence.” —Las Vegas Review-Journal
“A thrilling story that affects complicated and nuanced people. . . . Fragile delivers everything that Lisa Unger's readers have come to expect.” —Laura Lippman, author of I'd Know You Anywhere
“Unger keeps the energy level high . . . [and] the tension taut.” —Sun Sentinel
“If you're a fan of Jodi Picoult's family chronicle storytelling, you'll enjoy Fragile, too. . . . Unger balances nicely the suspense of her missing person story . . . with deeper sentiments.” —Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
“In the style of Jodi Picoult, Fragile tells its tale through the real-time action and freighted recollections of a diverse cast of characters.” —Boston Globe
“All of Unger’s characters in Fragile are keeping secrets, some of them truly dangerous. The ending is gripping, almost painful to read.” —Fredericksburg Freelance Star
“Unger skillfully builds suspense. . . . Much of the emotional weight and considerable tension of Fragile have to do with families.” —St. Petersburg Times
“[An] entertaining and extremely readable mystery.” —Florida Times-Union
“Lisa Unger brings this little town alive with flourish. . . . [She] has a rare talent for exploring the vast pallet of human emotions, and she wraps that talent around a highly intriguing story.” —Bookreporter.com
“Unger specializes in thrillers involving family life, and she steps back from her suspense roots this time to tell a slow, simmering, tragic tale. Fans of authors like Jodi Picoult will want to read this one in a nice comfortable chair.” —Associated Press
- Crown Publishing Group
- Publication date:
- Product dimensions:
- 6.10(w) x 9.30(h) x 1.30(d)
Read an Excerpt
When Jones Cooper was younger, he didn’t believe in mistakes. He thought that every road led you somewhere and wherever you wound up, that’s where you belonged. Regrets were for the shortsighted, for the small-minded. He didn’t believe that anymore. That was a young man’s arrogant way of looking at the world. And youth, among other things, had abandoned him long ago.
Jones felt the full weight of all his regrets as he pulled his Ford Explorer off the small side road and engaged the four-wheel drive to haul himself through the muck. Over the last week, the late autumn weather had been wild—hot one day, cold with flurries the next, then warm again. Now a thunderstorm loomed, as if heaven itself had decided to launch a protest against the erratic conditions. By morning, his tracks would be lost.
What had amazed him, what amazed him still, even after all these years, was how quickly he’d stepped out of himself. He’d slipped off every convention and moral that had defined him, a great cowl that fell to the floor with the unfastening of a single closure. The person beneath it was someone he barely recognized. He’d tried to tell himself over the years that the circumstances had changed him, that they’d forced him into aberrant behavior. But in his deepest heart, he knew. He knew what he was. He was weak. He was base. He always had been.
As he brought the vehicle to a stop, a white flash of lightning temporarily illuminated the area around him. He killed the engine and sat, drawing in a breath. In his pocket, his cell phone started vibrating. Hedidn’t have to look at it to know it was his wife; after so many good years with a woman, you knew when she was calling, even what she would probably say. He didn’t answer, but it set a clock ticking. He had about half an hour to call her back before she started trying other numbers. It wasn’t his habit to be out of communication. Not at this hour, early evening, when her last session had ended and, if there was nothing big going on, he’d be wrapping up the day.
It was the thought of that, the lost normalcy, that set Jones to sobbing. He was surprised at the force of it, like a hacking cough that came from deep in his chest, buckled him over so that his head was resting on the wheel. His wailing filled the car; he almost couldn’t believe the sound—animalistic in its agony—was coming from his body. But he couldn’t stop it. He had no choice but to surrender. Then it passed, as quickly as it had come on him, and he was left quaking in its wake. As he wiped his eyes, a heavy rain started to fall. Another lightning flash, and he felt the rumble of thunder beneath his feet.
He reached under the passenger seat, where he kept his heavy yellow slicker. He donned it while still in the car, pulling the hood tight around his face. Then he stepped outside, walked around to the hatch, and pulled it open, taking cover beneath it as he peered inside. The bundle in back was impossibly small. It was difficult to imagine that its contents represented everything dark and ugly within him, every wrong road, every cowardly choice. He didn’t want to touch it.
In his pocket, the phone started vibrating again. It broke his reverie, and he reached inside the vehicle to gather the thick gray plastic bag in both his arms. It no longer seemed small or insubstantial. It contained the weight of the whole world. He felt the horror of it all welling up within him, but he quashed it. He didn’t have time for more tears, or the luxury of breaking down again.
With the bag in his arms, Jones moved through the rain and ducked lithely beneath the crime scene tape to stand on the edge of a gaping hole. A Hollows kid, named Matty Bauer, had fallen into the abandoned mine shaft, which opened beneath his feet while he was playing with friends. In the fall, he’d broken his leg. It had taken police and rescue workers the better part of the day to get Matty out as the hole kept breaking down around them, showering the boy below with dirt.
Finally, they’d managed to get a tow truck out there. Jones had been the first to volunteer and was lowered on a rescue stretcher to immobilize the victim so he could be lifted out. Even though Jones was just back on duty, recovering from an injury himself, he had wanted to go.
When he’d gotten to the bottom of the hole, Matty Bauer was quiet and glassy-eyed, shock setting in, his leg twisted horribly. Even as he’d lifted Matty onto the stretcher, whispering assurances—Hang in there, kid, we’ve got you covered—the kid hadn’t made a sound. Then he’d watched as the stretcher lifted and lifted, spinning slowly like the hands of a clock against the circle of light above. He’d waited in that dark, deep hole for nearly twenty minutes, which seemed like hours, before they’d lowered the harness to lift him out. He’d done a lot of thinking down in that hole.
Take your time up there, guys.
Sorry, sir. Moving as fast as we can.
Which is apparently not very fucking fast.
But after the initial claustrophobic unease had passed, he’d felt oddly peaceful in the dark, some light washing in from above, voices echoing and bouncing down. He wasn’t worried about the walls collapsing and being buried alive. He might have even welcomed the hero’s death as opposed to the ignoble life he was living.
The shaft was scheduled for filling tomorrow at first light, the bulldozer and a great pile of earth already waiting. He’d left the station house saying to his assistant that he’d come here to check that everything was ready. He’d told her that he’d be here to supervise first thing in the morning. And that’s what he was doing.
Can’t have any more kids falling in that well. We’re lucky Matty just broke his leg.
Jones Cooper was a good cop. The Hollows was lucky to have him. Everyone said so.
Without false ceremony or empty words, he let the bundle drop from his arms and listened a second later to the soft thud of it landing in wet earth. Then he went back to the SUV and retrieved the shovel he always kept there. He spent a backbreaking twenty minutes shoveling dirt into the hole, just enough to cover even what he knew could not be seen from the rim of the opening. As he worked, the rain fell harder and great skeins of lightning slashed the sky.
One Month Earlier
The sound of the screen door slamming never failed to cause a happy lift in her heart that was immediately followed by a sinking, the opening of a small empty place. Maggie could almost hear her son the way he had been once—always running, always dirty from soccer, or riding his bike and getting into God knows what around the neighborhood. He’d be hungry or thirsty, would head directly to the refrigerator. Mom, I want a snack. He was loving then, ready to hug her or kiss her; not yet like his friends, who were even then slinking away from their mothers’ embraces, bearing their kisses as if they were vaccinations. He’d laughed easily. He was a clown, wanting her to laugh, too. Those days weren’t so long ago, when her son was still Ricky, not Rick. But that little boy was as far gone as if he’d gotten in a spaceship and flown to the moon.
Ricky walked into the kitchen, standing a full head taller than she, clad in black from head to toe—a pair of jeans, a carefully ripped and tattered tank, high-laced Doc Martens boots, though the autumn air was unseasonably hot. Nearly stifling, she thought, but that might just be her hormones. She was used to the silver hoop in his nose, almost thought it was cool.
He started opening cupboards. She tried not to stare. She’d been standing at the counter, leafing through a catalog packed with junk no one needed. Out of the corner of her eye, she watched it. Yesterday, he’d come home with a tattoo, some kind of abstract tribal design that spanned the length of his upper arm. It was hideous. And it wasn’t done; there was just an outline with no color. It would take several more appointments to complete, and he had to earn the money to pay for it. She certainly wasn’t going to pay for him to mutilate himself, not that he’d asked for money. The skin around the ink looked raw and irritated, shone with the Vaseline he had over it for protection. The sight of it made her sick with grief.
All she could think of was how pure and unblemished, how soft and pink his baby skin had been. How his wonderful body, small and pristine, used to feel in her arms, how she’d kiss every inch of him, marveling at his beauty. When she was a new mom, she’d felt like she couldn’t pull her eyes away. Now she cast her eyes back at her catalog quickly, not wanting to look at her own son, at what he’d seen fit to do to his beautiful body.
The fight they’d all had yesterday was over; everything she needed to say, she’d said. He would be eighteen in three weeks. His body wasn’t her responsibility anymore. You have no right to try to control me, he’d spat at her. I’m not a child. He was right, of course. That’s what hurt most of all.
“Not a big deal, Mom,” he said, reading her mind. He was riffling through the mail on the counter. “Lots of people have tattoos.”
“Ricky,” she said. She felt the heat rise to her face. But instead of saying anything else, she released a long, slow breath. It was a thing, like so many things, that could never be undone. It would be on him forever. Maybe she’d stop seeing it, like his hair, which was always a different color, jet-black today. He walked over and kissed her on the head.
“Not a baby, Mom,” he said.
“Always my baby, Ricky,” she said. He tried to move away, but she caught him and gave him a quick squeeze, which he returned.
“Rick,” he said. He turned away from her and headed to the refrigerator.
“Always Ricky,” she said. She knew she was being silly and stubborn. He had a right to say what he wanted to be called, didn’t he? Hadn’t she taught him to speak up for himself, to establish his boundaries, to have respect for himself?
“Mom.” One word. It was a gentle admonishment, as well as a request that she lighten up a bit.
She smiled and felt some of her tension dissolve. No matter how sad, how angry she was, she and her son had the kind of chemistry that made it difficult to fight. They were as likely to dissolve into laughter as they were to slam doors or raise their voices. Unlike the chemistry Ricky had with his father. When her husband and son fought, she understood why world peace was impossible, why people wouldn’t someday just learn to get along.
“How’s the band doing?” she said. A change of subject would do them both good.
“Not great. Charlene and Slash had a fight; she smashed his guitar. He can’t afford another one. We don’t have any gigs lined up anyway. We might be taking a break.”
“You know, Billy Lovett.”
“Oh.” Billy of the golden hair and sea green eyes, the charmer, the star soccer player, once upon a time the heartthrob of the fourth grade. He and Ricky were both seniors getting ready to graduate, unrecognizable by those fourth-grade pictures, taken when sunlight seemed to shine from their very pores. Now they looked more like they slept in coffins during the daylight hours. That Billy wanted to be called Slash was a new development.
“Sorry to hear that,” she said. Honestly, their band was awful. Charlene’s voice was middling at best. Ricky had been playing the drums since fourth grade. His technique was passable, but he didn’t have any real talent for it—not that Maggie could hear. Billy, aka Slash, was a fairly decent guitar player. But when they got together, they emitted a raucous, angry sound that inspired in Maggie an awkward cringing.
“Wow,” she’d said to them after she and Jones went to hear them perform last year at the school battle of the bands. They’d been in the final three but eventually lost to another, equally unpleasant-sounding band. “I’m impressed.”
Ricky poured himself a glass of orange juice, managing to spill a few drops on the granite countertop and the just-cleaned hardwood floor. She grabbed a rag and wiped up after him.
That’s the problem. You’re always following him around, cleaning up his messes. He thinks he can do anything. Her worst fights with her husband had been about their son, their only child. Jones didn’t seem to notice that their son, “the freak,” as Jones like to call him, had a 4.0 average and nearly perfect SAT scores. His early acceptance letters to Georgetown and New York University were hanging on the refrigerator, where she used to hang his crayon drawings and report cards. And those were just the first two.
What difference does any of that make when he doesn’t even want to go to college? All that brilliance and all he can think to do is get his fucking nose pierced?
But Maggie knew her son; he wouldn’t have gone through all the work of those applications as early as he had if there wasn’t someone beneath the punk hairstyle and tattoo who knew what an education meant. He didn’t want to work at the local music shop all his life.
“So are you and Charlene going to the winter formal?”
He flashed her a look, turning his too-smart eyes on her. They were black, black pools, just like her father’s eyes had been. Sometimes she saw her father’s strength, his wisdom, there, too. But mainly, she saw the twinkling before some smart comment or the flash of attitude. Like right now.
“You’re kidding,” he said.
“No,” she said, drawing out the word. “I’m not kidding. It might be fun.”
“Um, no, Mom. We’re not. Anyway, it’s not for months.”
“You could do it your own way, with your own style.” The rag still in her hand, she started wiping down things that didn’t need wiping—the chrome bread box, the toaster oven, the Italian pottery serving bowl where they kept the fresh fruit, when they had any in the house—which at the moment they did not. She really needed to go the grocery store. God forbid Jones or Ricky would ever pick up the list on the counter and go without being nagged for three days.
She wondered what “your own style” might mean to Ricky and Charlene. But all the other moms she ran into at the school or the grocery store were readying their daughters and sons for this high school event—shopping for dresses and renting tuxes already. Maggie could settle for gothic formal wear; she could handle that. She used to be cool a hundred years ago. She went to NYU, partied in the East Village—Pyramid Club, CBGB—wore all black. Her son’s style didn’t bother her as much as it did Jones. It was the whole college thing that kept her up at night. And Charlene, she worried about Charlene.
Charlene, a little girl lost, hiding behind a mask of black eyeliner and vamp red lipstick. She had an aura that somehow managed to be knowing but desperate, fiery yet vulnerable. She was the kind of girl who started wars, at once acquiescent and defiant. She’d spun a web around Maggie’s son without his knowing it, without even perhaps her intention. Spider silk was stronger than chain if you happened to be a fly.
There was something in the pitch of his voice when Ricky had first told her about Charlene that had made her stop what she was doing and listen, something about the look on his face. She knew it was going to be trouble.
Maggie kept waiting for the death knell: Mom, Charlene’s pregnant. We’re getting married. But she was smart enough to keep her mouth shut, to welcome Charlene into their home, into their family as much as Jones would allow. She wasn’t a bad girl. Maggie even saw a little of her younger self in Charlene. A little.
Maggie remembered how she’d railed and rebelled when her parents tried to keep her away from a boy she’d dated from a neighboring high school. Phillip Leblanc—with his punky hair and his paint-stained black clothes (he was an artist, of course), he was everything boys from The Hollows were not: cool, exotic, artistic. She did love him, in that way that teenage girls love, like a lemming. Which is not love, of course. Unfortunately, at seventeen, no one realizes that. And the only thing her parents accomplished with their endless groundings and tirades was to push her into his waiting arms. It was a big mess, from which she’d barely extricated herself. But that was another life. She still thought about him sometimes, wondered what became of him. Her random Google searches over the years had never turned anything up. He was a troubled boy, she realized now, and probably grew into a troubled man.
Even her mother had admitted recently, during one of Maggie’s laments about Charlene, that they’d handled it all wrong. Maggie was surprised, because her mother was generally not one to give an inch. But Mom was long on self-reflection these days—when she wasn’t obsessing about some noise in her attic.
Luckily, Jones recognized that when it came to Charlene, their son was standing on the edge of a cliff. Any sudden movement to help or control might cause a leap. They wouldn’t get him back.
That girl is sleeping with our son, he said to her one night as they sipped wine by the pool.
I know, she said, not without a twinge of something angry or jealous or sad. She’d seen Charlene with her hand on Ricky’s crotch just the day before. Somehow it made her remember changing his diapers and giving him a bath. She’d felt another lash of grief. Sometimes it seemed like that was all it was, motherhood—grief and guilt and fear. You said good-bye a little every day—from the minute they left your body until they left your home. But no, that wasn’t all. There was that love, that wrenching, impossible love. It was all so hard sometimes, hard enough with two careers that they hadn’t wanted another. But it was over so fast.
There’s something not right about that girl.
I know it, she said.
Jones cast her a surprised glance over the table. I thought you liked her.
She gave a slow shrug. I care about her because I care about Ricky. And he loves her.
With a sharp exhale: What does he know about love?
Not enough. That’s why it’s so dangerous.
From the Hardcover edition.
Meet the Author
LISA UNGER is the New York Times bestselling author of Die for You, Beautiful Lies, Sliver of Truth, and Black Out. She lives in Florida with her husband and daughter.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
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I've read all of Lisa Unger's books, and they're all terrific, including this one. She has a way of building tension steadily so you don't want to put the book down. This novel is particularly ambitious, delving into the secrets of three generations of families in the Hollows. It's a knockout thriller, but it's also a sensitive exploration of family.
Ricky Cooper's friend, Charlene, is missing and his parents are at odds about his involvement. Maggie Cooper, a psychologist, is convinced her son would never harm Charlene, yet her detective husband, Jones, isn't so sure. The stress between the Coopers is exacerbated by the other storyline that Ms. Unger weaves throughout the search for Charlene. A classmate of Maggie and Jones disappeared and was murdered twenty years earlier and Charlene's disappearance reverberates throughout the community. As FRAGILE unfolds, some of the characters are forced to face half-truths and misconceptions of that earlier tragedy. FRAGILE is a good, strong mystery; a nice read. Lynn Kimmerle
I read this book & thoroughly enjoyed it!! I took this book everywhere with me just wanting to read it quickly so I could find out what happened next!!! So many stories overlapping one another that you just couldn't believe the outcome! Recommend it highly...just purchased another one of Lisa Unger's books too! Yay new author for me to love! Hope you enjoy it as much as I did!
The story opens with a Police Officer throwing a bundle into an abandoned well, then shoveling dirt to cover it completely.... The story flashes back to a month earlier. The reader learns how the past has shaped every character and affected their present day relationships. A girl has gone missing in The Hollows, a small town about two hours away from New York, a small town where some secrets and gossip never die. Intriguing.
This is the first book that I read by this author. It was pretty good. The characters were well developed and complex. So were the relationships and interactions between them. It was suspenseful in a non-dramatic way. Her style of writing made you want to keep reading to find out what happened. There are troubled characters and everyone has a past they want hidden. It makes for a good story with many issues to discuss. In all, I'd read another book by Lisa Unger particularly because hshe has a penchant for character development and understands the mentality of small town living.
Fragile is a mystery in the best sense of the word, with well-developed characters and slow-building suspense. It is the story of missing teenage girls, decades apart, and the connections between their disappearances. Maggie Cooper is a well-respected psychologist living in "The Hollows", a small town outside of New York City. While juggling a busy practice, she tries desperately to keep her relationships with her detective husband, Jones, and sullen teenage son, Ricky, going strong. When Ricky's girlfriend, Charlene, goes missing, the Coopers and Charlene's mother, Melody, do everything they can to locate her. But is this a recurrence of their worst nightmare from their high school days...when Maggie, Melody, Jones, and the rest of The Hollows' parents and children had to contend with another missing girl...one who was found murdered? Only time will tell. Unger does a fine job of connecting all of her characters and both of her plots (the disappearances of both Charlene in the present and Sarah in the past) to make one gripping novel. She is a masterful storyteller; however, as she states in the "author's note", she has had a personal experience with this. This novel is not to be missed. MY RATING - 5/5 To see my rating scale and other reviews, please check out my blog: http://www.1776books.blogspot.com.
Very predictable story. Good read with an interesting group of characters. Missed having the twists and turns of a good mystery.
Fragile was well-written and suspenseful. The plot contained twists and turns but I was expecting more of an explosive ending. Instead, it had many elements of family and relationship drama. Lots of questions to get you thinking about your own life.
I thought this book was pretty good even though at times it was a little confusing. See, two stories are being told sporatically throughout the book (one about a missing girl from the past and one from the present) and every chapter is from a different character's point of view. The author definitely has a unique way of writing. Overall this was a different and enjoyable read.
I can't honestly say I enjoyed the book that much. The author kept jumping back and forth between an incident involving a missing girl which happened when the main characters were teenagers to a similar incident involving their teenaged children years later. The abrupt way the author would switch back and forth between plots tended to be disorienting. She would just drop a thread and by the time she got back to it, I didn't care anymore. Each thread could probably have been developed into a book by itself. I thought the answers to both incidents were contrived and way too complicated to be believable.
I have read all of Lisa Unger's books and I liked the style of all of them better than Fragile & Darkness, My Old Friend. These 2 are not a series per say, but they share the same local and characters. The thing I loved most about her previous books were the ways her characters were always "self analyzing" themselves. I liked reading the thought processes of why they were feeling the way they were. In all the previous books the characters found themselves in situation where they realized there life was not the life they thought. This was missing from both of these books. Yes, the characters still experienced the same angst but there wasn't the thrill and loss of footing that was experienced in the other books. Beautiful Lies & Sliver of Truth are 2 of my favorite books and I suggest them to other readers all the time. Mostly, I think I l missed the THRILL from the previous books.
I liked the way she showed that our traits can be a strength and a weakness at the same time. Each character in this book was "fragile" but strong. It's a story of how your family and your choices will affect your entire life. Well written I had trouble putting it down.
The picturesque town of Hollows, 20 miles from the darker New York City, looks just like those towns where everyone knows your name...and your business. So Lisa Unger sets out to prove that not only are there deep, dark, dirty secrets in Hollows, but that everybody most certainly does not know your business. The problem for me is that Unger overdoes it. There is just too much hidden evil in this town, and all of the psychoanalyzing in the novel made me feel beaten over the head by the time she was done. The story was just too far gone, especially as to do with one of the lead characters, Jones, the supposedly upstanding police detective. I just don't see his life taking the turns it did given the secret he was hiding.
I love a good mystery, and this book was very well-written. I thought it was a tad predictable, but with some good, unexpected twists as well. The characters are well-developed, although i found it hard to keep up with who's who sometimes as it is chapters before one person or another is mentioned again.
This book was amazing. I fnished it in about 3 days because I couldn't put it down. I really liked the psychological aspect about it (but then again I'm a bit partial to that because that is my field of study). The author did an excellent job of weaving all the characters lives together in a way that doesn't confuse the reader. I wish the book could've been longer just because the story was that good. I recommend this to everyone who enjoys reading psychological mysteries.
I really enjoyed reading this book. Though the read was good, and the story was well rounded, I could see where everything was heading. Quite clearly in fact. When I read a mystery novel , like most individuals, I enjoy the twists and anticipation that comes without saying. I could see where the author seemed to make attempts for twists in the story, but to no avail, I already knew the ending chapters and chapters before it happened. I don't want to say it was typical because the story itself was unique and had a lot of depth and character. The plot was typical seems to be a better way to sum of the story. Over all I had higher hopes but still enjoyed reading the book.
I love Lisa unger books. She does a great job with developing her characters and keeping you on the edge of your seat. With three generations of characters it was a little confusing at first keeping track of how everyone connected. But I enjoyed how the book unraveled and all the interactions of the characters.
This book was one of the best. The twists and turns in the story kept me wondering what was going to happen next
Wow. I haven't enjoyed a book this much in a very long time. I highly recommend it. Its a mystery, but so much more. The characters are well thought out, and feel very real. Lisa Unger is a great writer. A must read for sure!
In this book by Lisa Unger the past catches up to her well thought out characters. For me this is the kind of book that makes a person think about conequences. Written in the present day with flashbacks that tie a group of parents together without a lot of jumping around. I found it to be a great read and enjoyed getting to know the characters.
Lisa Unger delves into so many fascinating aspects of our emotional worlds while weaving together the intrigue and tension of a crime thriller. Like many of her other titles, I was so fascinated with the characters and story line that I read this book in just three sittings.
What an exciting book with a multitude of twists and turns! The characters are well written and we get to really know them and truly care.
I really enjoyed the mystery of this book, the where is she, the why is he there, the what happen in the past kept me reading to the end. Great book in my opinion.
This was my first book by Lisa Unger, and I was NOT disappointed!
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 insular town outside of New York City. It's the kind of place that Maggie had once found dull, constraining, but now finds comforting as people know each other, and seemingly care for one another. It seems that Ricky might benefit from some observation as he's a punk kid with a silver hoop in his nose, sometimes referred to as "Johnny Rotten" by his dad. Try as Maggie may she can't seem to reach Ricky any more but loves him with all her heart, remembering "...how pure and unblemished, how soft and pink his baby skin had been." Ricky is going with Charlene, an undesirable companion in the eyes of Maggie and Jones. She is "a little girl lost hiding behind black eyeliner and vamp red lipstick." However, Maggie does her best to understand, to accept Charlene because she loves Ricky. However, understanding and acceptance go out the window when Charlene vanishes. To some her disappearance is a frightening reminder of a teenager who was abducted and murdered years ago when Maggie herself was a teenager. Jones is leading the investigation in efforts to find Charlene and, shocking to Maggie, begins to look very closely at their son. A once tranquil community is once again shattered by a mysterious disappearance. In a desperate attempt to prove Ricky innocent of any wrongdoing Maggie begins an investigation of her own and makes a shocking discovery. No novice at creating suspenseful, gripping narratives Lisa Unger has once again penned a stay-up-all-night story. Enjoy! - Gail Cooke