[Review] The Fragile World by Paula Treick DeBoard

Posted 28 October, 2014 by DLWhite in Reviews, Writers Read 0 Comments

The Fragile World Book Cover The Fragile World
Paula Treick DeBoard
Literary Fiction
October 28, 2014

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. 

There’s so much to this book, I almost wanted to flip back to the beginning and read it cover to cover again. The Fragile World is beautifully written, so deep and emotive, with raw and real emotions. Paula Treick DeBoard never shies away from the gripping truth within and between her characters.

In 2008, our family lost my youngest brother. He was 22, funny and bright and the accident that took him was so senseless and ridiculous. I’ve so often wished I could go back in time and change the past so he could still be here with us. The tidal wave of emotion that comes after the earthquake of tragedy still ripple through our family. Each of us is forever changed by his sudden, heart wrenching loss. It is with this familiar feeling that I read while biting my fingernail to the nub, of the Kaufman family.

Daniel, child music prodigy and generally the most favorite family member is ripped from life in a freak accident. Almost immediately, I felt as if his mother, Kathleen, shied away from having to deal with the aftermath. She makes Curtis travel to retrieve the body, to deal with the arrangements, to talk to the police. Curtis, on his own, has to stifle his own feelings of grief to move forward. Deep within him, a rage begins to simmer.

By the time that rage explodes, so much has changed– Kathleen no longer lives with the family and younger Olivia suffers from debilitating anxiety, which is only temporarily abated by keeping a meticulous journal of things that scare her, random every day occurrences that could go terribly wrong and take her loved ones away from her.

When Curtis hears that Daniel’s killer– the drunk driver that drove the car that hit the stop sign that fell over onto Daniel– has been released from prison, he decides to mete out the form of justice that would be fair to Daniel. It’s the only way to make the world spin the right way again.

What I enjoyed about this story is how close Curtis and Olivia are– and become in the days leading up to the grim task. Following Curtis’ small mental break, the two set out on roadtrip to visit Kathleen in Oklahoma. The series of poignant and meaningful Daddy-Daughter moments were touching, even when they were cross with each other. Olivia didn’t like to be apart from him. He gave her comfort and made her feel safe and in Curtis’ eyes, he simply had ONE task that would make her feel eternally safe.

The events that close the book puzzle me, however. How Kathleen ends up being the one to take on the heavy burden and how Curtis let her do so… I didn’t see a justification for it. Was he punishing her for basically trying to push Daniel’s death under a rug? For making him deal with the details of life after death?  For leaving the family?

Or did Kathleen feel like it was her duty to take that burden from Curtis?

Wherever those answers lie,it doesn’t change my opinion that The Fragile World is an excellent read– deeply moving, paced well, poetically written. I truly enjoyed it!

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