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Summary

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.

Praise for The Nature of Fragile Things 

“A mysterious web of lies, love, and loss that accelerates toward the inevitable: the great San Francisco earthquake of 1906." (Kristin Harmel, author of The Book of Lost Names)

“A riveting tale set in 1906 San Francisco. These fascinating characters' hidden pasts and dark secrets collide, entwine, and explode - and that's before the earthquake hits." (Greer Macallister, author of The Magician's Lie and The Arctic Fury)

“In the ashes of San Francisco's greatest tragedy, one remarkable woman finds love, friendship, and the means to rebuild. Historical fiction that reads with the urgency and suspense of a thriller.” (Lauren Willig, New York Times best-selling author of The Summer Country)

“Driven by the unstoppable force of the three intriguing women at its heart, this is a novel to savor, and one to share with all the women in your life whom you admire." (Hazel Gaynor, New York Times best-selling author of When We Were Young & Brave)

©2021 Susan Meissner (P)2021 Penguin Audio

Critic reviews

“Meissner spins an exceptional story.... Unexpected and masterfully crafted twists and turns abound.... Ingeniously plotted and perfectly structured, this captivates from beginning to end.” (Publisher's Weekly, starred review) 

“A terrific tale that takes us on a harrowing cable-car ride through early 20th-century San Francisco, where dark secrets - like the city itself - crack wide open, forcing our world-weary heroine to confront the devastation done by the lies she's been told and by the lies she's still telling.” (Stephanie Dray, author of America’s First Daughter and The Women of Chateau Lafayette

“A brilliant story of resilience and the power of female friendship." (Marie Benedict, New York Times best-selling author of The Mystery of Mrs. Christie)
 

What listeners say about The Nature of Fragile Things

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  • Anonymous User
  • 04-02-21

The Nature of Fragile Things is a 5 star listen!

I started this amazing book on the date is was released, February 2 & finished on February 4, 2021. Susan Meissner has not disappointed , I would rate this book 10 stars if I possible. Her new book was unputdownable from the beginning & I would highly recommend! I enjoyed all the twists, turns, & surprises revealed in the story!

14 people found this helpful

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  • Teresa
  • 07-02-21

Suspenseful and compelling! Wonderful!

I thoroughly enjoyed this book. It draws you in, deeper and deeper, until you must know more about the untold, the secrets and lies and twists. And the ending—so deeply satisfying. Great book! Maybe Susan Meissner’s finest.

10 people found this helpful

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  • Admirer of great books; critic of bad books.
  • 26-02-21

What an amazing story! WOW!

I don't know why I picked this book...the cover seemed to call to me. So I listened to the sample and I was pulled in with just that. This is truly a book that I wish could go on forever. The characters are well-defined, the storyline well-developed. The dialogue so genuine and real to the events. The scenery of San Francisco and all its devastation was clearly visible to me. The storyline was so intriguing. I liked that the story was cohesive. There was no unnecessary (oft-ridiculous) angst involved. I didn't have to suspend reality. This is one of my top 2 books in more than a year, and I imagine I'll be reading more by this author. This is the first time I've ready anything by her...and I'm in awe. I had to tear myself away from my device because I actually downloaded this for a weekend read, but it's only Friday evening and I've only 2 hours left to go. And the title of the book...well, it certainly made me think. This is a shooting star book!

8 people found this helpful

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  • JennyR
  • 09-02-21

Fantastic Book

This was one of those, " I could not put it down" books. I read the book first, and immediately ordered the Audible version to listen to. The narrator was perfect! I was able to catch things I had missed. on the second time thru. The Earthquake made such an incredible background for the rest of the story to unfold.

6 people found this helpful

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  • darla
  • 03-02-21

Another well done book

Wonderfully written and narrated. Such a great, unpredictable story line that wraps everything up well.

5 people found this helpful

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  • Nicole
  • 07-07-21

It's Okay

I really don't know why I kept listening to this story - probably the same reason I sit through a very mediocre movie til the end - just waiting for it to get better and/or resolved.
The Irish accent the narrator used was a bit irritating for me and I am not a language expert so I don't know how close that came to a real accent - but I didn't like it much and it was not consistent throughout.
The era was unique to read about and I enjoyed that aspect but the mystery was fed in such small spoonfuls that that it was frustrating to have to sit through so much filler to get another spoonful.
Not a complete disaster but not really enjoyable enough to recommend.

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  • MelSA
  • 19-02-21

Rising inflection in the delivery

I enjoyed this book very much, but the narration was often teeth-grindingly irritating. The reader used an irregular lift in her inflection, creating a breathy emphasis where it made no sense in the sentence. I considered returning the book, but I really wanted to find out what happened.

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  • Taryn
  • 03-06-21

Kept my interest

I really enjoyed this book. It had some great twists and turns and kept my interest the entire time. I didn't know much about the earthquake in San Francisco at the turn of the century, so I learned a bit about it and it spurred me on to research a bit more about it-which is why I like historical fiction.
The characters were well written and the book flowed well.

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  • Sarah J. ONeil
  • 03-06-21

Listen in spite of annoying rollercoaster narration

Almost didn’t read but Audible refused to let me return. Engaging story. Glad I managed to tolerate the weird, fake Irish accent/inflection the otherwise fine narrator has. It was very distracting but it’s a good yarn. Hang in there.

2 people found this helpful

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  • Kathleen
  • 21-05-21

Don't waste your credit

I'm almost done with this book, and so will finish, because I listen while exercising and I've spent the credit now.

The narrator's inflection is really annoying, and the story is contrived and predictable. I can hardly believe it got so many stars.

A huge disappointment.

2 people found this helpful