Fragile starts on a dark and stormy night, but the story is anything but clichéd. It centers around a family—Maggie Cooper, a psychologist; her husband, a cop named Jones; and their son, Rick—living in the small upstate New York community of The Hallows. When Rick’s girlfriend, Charlene, disappears Hallows residents slowly realize that the girl didn’t run away, she was taken, and possibly killed. This dredges up memories of a similar incident in Jones’ past—a story that gets seamlessly woven into the modern day narrative.
Using multiple points of view, including Maggie’s troubled teen patient, Marshall, who appears to be involved, as well as various close-knit friends, relatives, and newcomers to the neighborhood, Lisa Unger does a masterful job of depicting small town claustrophobia, dysfunctional family dynamics, and the dark secrets that haunt people.
Maggie is a sympathetic protagonist, despite her tendency to over-mother Ricky (as she calls him). The prose is elegant, mesmerizing even—enough to lull the reader past a minor crack in the plot structure. Highly suspenseful, Fragile is about more than a missing child. It’s about weird twists of fate, life decisions, regrets and wondering how things might have been.