By Laura Rachel Fox
Lisa Unger’s "Fragile" is an emotional roller coaster. Through a myriad of unique characters Unger explores the sometimes strained relationships between family members as well as the relationships between members of a suburban community. When a girl goes missing in The Hollows, the town is not only faced with the task of finding the troubled teen, but many of the townspeople are forced to deal with their memories of a similar case from their past. What follows is a haunting mystery and an exploration of the characters’ psyches and motivations.
One of the most compelling relationships is that of Maggie and her immediate family. Maggie’s position as “town shrink” puts her in an interesting place to help in the search for the missing girl. It also informs her relationship with her teen son and her husband, Chief of Police Jones Cooper. As readers, we are treated to the inner thoughts and feelings of each and every character that Unger has crafted. This provides for an interesting view of the events and tragedies that have shaped and will shape this town and its residents.
Among the residents are a host of well-rounded characters. From the struggling teenager, to the unyielding headmistress, to the exterminator, to the abusive father, each has an important role to play in the unfolding of events. Each has a life all his/her own. Each has a place in their community. Some forced into roles, some trying to redeem themselves, others compelled by their own nature, and still others unable to escape the hold a community like this can have.
Throughout the fast-paced mystery, Unger disperses descriptive details to create a real place. A place with homes, schools, parks. A place many would love to call home. The Hollows is a place of refuge from the big city, a place where parents come to raise their children with time honored values and in the safety of a close community. Unfortunately, we learn that even a town with a rich history of family values is not impervious to the degradation of society. We learn alongside the characters that no place is safe from the depravity of human nature and the cruelty of the real world.
I was overwhelmed by the level of emotional investment I felt in these characters: every individual a real person, with honest thoughts and sentiments. The community that Unger created in The Hollows is a beautiful place, full of memories, connections, fear, and solace. At the conclusion of the novel, I was impressed with the overall theme that we are all a part of something, connected and unable to be isolated. As Lisa Unger so beautifully put it, our lives are all “woven together in one great tapestry—the past, the present, the future—colors and textures mingling and entwined.”
Laura Rachel Fox is a wife, mother, and aspiring author who is biding her time in Fort Worth, TX. She received her BS in English Education from Williams Baptist College (AR) in 2004 and has spent the following years slowly trying to break into the world of writing. You can read more of her wandering thoughts on her blog.