REVIEW: SUSAN MEISSNER – THE NATURE OF FRAGILE THINGSThe Nature of Fragile Things by Susan Meissner
Also in this series: The Real, My Oxford Year
Series: Standalone
Published by Berkley on February 2, 2021
Genres: Historical Fiction
Tropes: Polygamous Husband, Earthquake San Francisco 1906
Format: eARC
Source: Berkley, Netgalley
Buy on AmazonBuy on Audible
Narrator: Alana Kerr Collins, Jason Culp
Length: 10 hrs and 39 mins
Cliffhanger: No


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.

I grabbed this one on a whim because I read the blurb and was drawn to it. I’m glad I did!

I don’t know much about the early 20th century but I did know about the big earthquake in San Francisco in 1906. This story follows a hopeful Sophie, an Irish immigrant who comes to California to flee poverty in New York to marry a man she hasn’t even met yet.

Every step toward the ramp to the pier is taking me farther away from who I am and closer to who I am going to be. 

The author leaves bread crumbs every couple of chapters that keep you completely engaged and immersed in the story and builds up the anticipation for the other shoe to drop. What I didn’t expect was the suspenseful plot. I just couldn’t stop reading.

I loved Sophie who was so smart and planned five steps ahead to stay on top of her polygamous husband and whose love for her stepdaughter was very moving and sweet. Her courage in the face of the tragedy of the earthquake and her clearheaded actions I admired so much. She was wise beyond her 22 years.

When people are thrown into an abyss and together find their way out of it, they are not the same people. They are bound to each other ever after, linked together at the core of who they are because it was together that they escaped a terrible fate. 

This turned out to be quite a page turner. The historical facts are sparse and not overwhelming but enough to set the scene and makes the story come alive. The authors descriptions make the story vivid and I didn’t feel like only an observer but someone seeing, feeling, smelling, tasting the ash, fire and devastation in the middle of the tragedy. Furthermore, it’s so bizarre to see how easy identity theft was before the internet connected the world. This is a story about friendship found in unexpected places, the resilience of humans and new beginnings. I’ll definitely read more from this Susan Meissner, who has an amazing storytelling gift!

Martin was wrong about me. I wasn’t running when I married him. I was making something new. Starting over. Beginning again. 


You may also like


  • I really enjoy historical novels with not a lot of historical jargon because I can never keep track of them, but this sounds really good. Love the review Astrid (◕‿◕)♡

    • Thank you! I hope you’ll pick it up. It gives you so much insight into the status of women back then. And that was only a bit more than 100 years ago.

Talk to me!

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: