STARRED REVIEW
November 2014

The destructive power of grief

By Paula Treick DeBoard
Review by
Curtis and Kathleen Kaufman are living every parent’s worst nightmare: Their son Daniel, a musical prodigy attending Oberlin College, was mowed down by a drunk driver. In The Fragile World, Paula Treick DeBoard explores the aftermath of this shattering event.
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Curtis and Kathleen Kaufman are living every parent’s worst nightmare: Their son, Daniel, a musical prodigy attending Oberlin College, was mowed down by a drunk driver. In The Fragile World, Paula Treick DeBoard explores the aftermath of this shattering event.

The Kaufmans’ solid marriage disintegrates in their mourning. Their other child, Olivia, a lovely and decidedly normal preteen (there is really only room for one prodigy per family), feels the pressure to fill the hole left by Daniel. Seeking a fresh start, Kathleen moves to Omaha. Olivia stays with her father in Sacramento, where they subsist on frozen food and never address their lingering pain.

When Curtis gets a letter notifying him that Daniel’s killer is up for early parole, something in him snaps. He makes plans to bring Olivia, by now a goth-wannabe who has given up on ever filling Daniel’s shoes, to her mother before continuing to Oberlin to face the man who destroyed his family. From here, The Fragile World takes a turn from a lovely, quiet meditation on grief to one of the most recipe-for-disaster road trips since Thelma and Louise got in that Ford Thunderbird. Eventually, Curtis must decide whether his thirst for revenge is more powerful than his instinct to keep his family intact.

The Fragile World is told alternately from Curtis’ and Olivia’s viewpoints, and DeBoard perfectly captures the angsty, ironic tone of a teenage girl hiding oceans of pain. It is a beautifully evocative journey through a family’s darkest hours, one that reminds us that even the most broken among us are capable of resilience.

 

This article was originally published in the November 2014 issue of BookPage. Download the entire issue for the Kindle or Nook.

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The Fragile World

The Fragile World

By Paula Treick DeBoard
MIRA
ISBN 9780778316763

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