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  • Writer's pictureJudith D Collins

The Fragile World

the fragile world.png

ISBN: 9780778316763

Publisher: Harlequin

Publication Date: 10/28/14

Format: Paperback

My Rating: 5 Stars

From the author of publishing sensation The Mourning Hours comes a powerful new novel that explores every parent's worst nightmare…

The Kaufmans have always considered themselves a normal, happy family. Curtis is a physics teacher at a local high school. His wife, Kathleen, restores furniture for upscale boutiques. Daniel is away at college on a prestigious music scholarship, and twelve-year-old Olivia is a happy-go-lucky kid whose biggest concern is passing her next math test.

And then comes the middle-of-the-night phone call that changes everything. Daniel has been killed in what the police are calling a "freak" road accident, and the remaining Kaufmans are left to flounder in their grief.

The anguish of Daniel's death is isolating, and it's not long before this once-perfect family finds itself falling apart. As time passes and the wound refuses to heal, Curtis becomes obsessed with the idea of revenge, a growing mania that leads him to pack up his life and his anxious teenage daughter and set out on a collision course to right a wrong.

An emotionally charged novel, The Fragile World is a journey through America's heartland and a family's brightest and darkest moments, exploring the devastating pain of losing a child and the beauty of finding healing in unexpected ways.

"A heart-stopping series of events drives The Fragile World…. The result is a gripping read, but one that delivers, by the book's end, a beautiful reminder of the resilience of love." —Karen Brown, author of The Longings of Wayward Girls

My Review

The Fragile World by Paula Treick DeBoard, a powerful and emotionally charged account of a family experiencing utter despair, faced with choices, and wracked by grief, fear, and guilt; and a poignant journey to love, healing, forgiveness, and acceptance.

The Kaufman’s, a normal family in Sacramento, CA when looking in, from the outside, before the tragedy. Curtis, the father a physics teacher at the local high school. Kathleen, mother, a strong female, and highly creative, restores furniture and a buyer for antiques dealer.

Daniel, a child musical prodigy, is attending college out of town on a music scholarship. Their entire world has revolved around Daniel and his music.

Olivia, at age twelve feels a little left out, as sometimes she feels as though she is a disappointment, compared to her older brother (which is often the case when there is one sibling, a prodigy with a busy schedule of lessons, deadlines, performances, and expectations). However, she worships her brother and dreads when he moves away for school.

Their safe world is forever changed when a tragedy occurs, as Daniel is killed in a tragic accident. How will they cope? Will their lives be driven by revenge or fear? As the years go by, this family falls apart, piece by piece, each one of them reacts differently in order to protect the other, going to extremes, with a lack of communication. Can they find their way back to normal, or could it be they never were normal, and will need to start a new? The choices they make will forever change the course of their lives. A journey of, “moving on” in the midst of a complicated situation.

Curtis feels he has let down his family and the only way to make amends is revenge – to destroy the monster who did this; a dark obsession with a man named Robert. He needs to hold someone accountable for his son’s death, and it is the only way he can make sense of this new world he has to live in.

Kathleen, wants to communicate, go to therapy, and stay busy, by burying herself in work, and projects, to start over and move away from this town which holds so many memories.

Olivia is struck by fear. She has to protect herself and those around her. She is afraid to leave the house, and keeps a fear journal, recording every item which causes a panic attack. “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself—Franklin D. Roosevelt. Also blenders.—Olivia Kaufman

DeBoard takes readers on an incredible and intense emotional journey. A family crumbling layer by layer; pain, hurt, guilt; a father’s plan, a witty and humorous father-daughter road trip (loved this, as I am a huge road trip fan and always makes for interesting characters along the way)--from Sacramento to the sleepy town of Oberlin, Ohio and Omaha, Nebraska (with some side trips), and a mother’s sacrifice to save her family. The parents also hold secrets of Curtis’s past which brings another side story, grandparents, and another road trip to Chicago (this time, mother-daughter). Boy, they are racking up the miles . .

The Fragile World is an intense and suspenseful, yet intriguing page-turner which keeps you hooked, dying to learn the fate of each character. The book centers around the word, “world”. The road trip takes them away from the world they knew into a new world. Olivia lives in a world of fear and isolation after the tragedy; and later breaks out of her comfort zone into a different world she never thought possible. Kathleen moves to a new city and begins her new world with possibilities and wants desperately for her family to share with her.

Talented secondary, character Luke is also living is a small town, with limited resources, yet he finds a way to utilize his creativity by designing snow globes which tell a story of different worlds and life experiences met with tragedy.

The author creates an amazing tale, and executes brilliantly, even though some reviewers do not care for the ending, and I do question as to why one parent suffers the blame; however, the story focuses on Curtis and Olivia’s POV. A realistic story, with flawed characters, and sometimes it is not all about a happy fairy tale ending, yet leaving you with hope, and promise, as this family learns to heal, accept, and overcome obstacles and tragedy. The author’s beautiful writing draws you in to the scents, smells, and vivid descriptions with raw emotions and enjoyed the breaking out the POVs alternating voices.

The one thing I was hoping for, since the front cover is depicting the snow globe – more from the character Luke, later in the book. He was such an endearing character, which will touch your heart with his little roadside stand, and his caring altruistic nature. He was able to break down the barriers with Olivia, when no one else could. I was hoping for a mention of him, possibly selling his globes in their new store, as a unique item. Possibly a later story about Olivia and Luke….

I am delighted to discover this author, as before I finished this book, I purchased The Mourning Hours and looking forward to reading. (Includes an excerpt). I enjoyed the Readers’ Guide at the end, as well as words from the author and the inspiration for the novel. Well done – highly recommend!

A special thank you to Harlequin and NetGalley for an ARC in exchange for an honest review.


About the Author

Paula is a reader, writer, drinker of strong coffee and an all-around slave to public education. She majored in English, taught junior high and high school and earned an MFA in Fiction Writing from the University of Southern Maine. These days, she splits her time between teaching (at the University of California, Merced), chatting about writing whenever she has a chance, and staring at a laptop screen for uninterrupted hours. Her novels include Here We Lie (2018), The Drowning Girls, The Fragile World and The Mourning Hours. She lives in Northern California with Will and their four-legged brood. WEBSITE






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