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Fragile Beasts: A Novel Hardcover – March 23, 2010

4.6 out of 5 stars 77 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In her fourth outing, novelist O'Dell returns to Pennsylvania coal country for more dysfunctional family drama. When teenage brothers Klint and Kyle, having already been abandoned by their mother, are left orphaned by the death of their father, they're unexpectedly taken in by an elderly, filthy rich recluse named Candace Jack, known for her family's mining company, J&P Coal. Taking in the two working-class kids, Candace is reminded of her own emotional wounds (a heart long-broken by the violent death of her bullfighter fiancé), and the damaged trio grope their way toward healing amid heated cultural and generational clashes. Under Candace's roof, likable and inquisitive Kyle begins to develop artistic skills, while sullen baseball prodigy Klint immerses himself even further in sports. When Kyle and Klint's cold-hearted mom appears, looking to get at Candace's money, a series of near-tragic events and terrible revelations ensue. O'Dell can overdo the sentiment, but she's a pro at capturing dialogue, and some characters' wisecracks are laugh-out-loud funny. Though predictable, this gritty novel is a memorable read. (Mar.)
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From Booklist

Their father was a notorious drunk; their mother, a self-absorbed shrew who callously abandoned them for life with another man. After their father is killed in a senseless accident, teenage brothers Klint and Kyle Hayes face being returned to their mother’s custody against their will. For Klint, the move to Arizona would mean sacrificing his attention-getting baseball career at the height of the college and pro-scouting season. For sensitive and artistic Kyle, holding onto the only home he has ever known is essential to making sure his brother achieves the success necessary to free them both from the oppression of their small, western Pennsylvania mining town. Salvation comes in the unlikely form of Candace Jack, a wealthy and reclusive elderly woman who is persuaded to give the boys a home, and herself a second chance to feel love again. In this tough and tender tale, O’Dell’s triumphant portrait of loss and rejection, sanctuary and redemption, shines with poignancy, dignity, and transcendent joy. --Carol Haggas

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Crown; First Edition edition (March 23, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0307351688
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307351685
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.4 x 9.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (77 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #844,864 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By C. Lewis on April 11, 2010
Format: Hardcover
I'll admit: sometimes I am a little arrogant about finding authors who shine well before the general public does. When the author finally receives the accolades they deserve, I sit back, chest puffed up a bit, and think " Ah, I knew you when"..
I do not write reviews, I have only written 2 before this. One for Dennis Lehane's "Any Given Day" and Richard Russo's " Bridge of Sighs" I only write them when I feel I have to. I have to now.
As all of O'Dell's previous works, this is just a remarkable story. You can read the synopsis of Fragile Beasts on other reviews. I am not overly comfortable describing novels "Innards" to other folks. I just want people to read Tawni O'Dell.

I purchased, and read Back Roads well before Oprah did. I knew then that this writer was special. It is years later, and I still remember the novel vividly. Her second novel, Coal Run, while quieter than Back Roads was just so lovely. I don't know what it is about O'Dell that captures me so. I appreciate and demand good writing, and she delivers beautiful prose in all of her work. She is clever and raw, and a masterful storyteller. Her third outing, Sister Mine, was near perfection. O'Dell had it all in that book. Mother love, romantic love, sibling...love, a mystery, a yummy coalminer and plenty of humor.

She manages, in her last effort, to bring levity in just when she needs to. She is so intuitive on how deep to go, before sprinkling some comedic touches that shine. Fragile Beasts, for me, is my favorite novels of hers to date. It has something for everyone. I savored this book. I inhaled it. I fell in love with a Matador, a pair of adolescent boys, an aging wealthy matriarch, and a bull. I really haven't found an author in the last decade or so who moves me and pleases me on every level in my "world of books" than Tawni O'Dell.

I envy all of you readers who get to find her. She is dazzling.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I had not intended to read this book in one day, but I couldn't stop myself. Once again, Tawni O'Dell has created wonderfully rich, complicated characters in whom I felt deeply emotionally invested by the time I had finished the first few chapters. As in her previous novels, she captures the culture of Western PA (where I grew up) so exactly, and her portrayal of the contrasts between the working class and the affluent are spot on and often hilarious. In Fragile Beasts, O'Dell has expanded the cultural and geographic horizons of her story and this novel is all the richer for it. I was delighted to find myself immersed in the beautiful language and culture of Spain (particularly the bull fighting traditions) as seen through the eyes and hearts of her characters, Candace Jack (a native of PA) and the transplanted Spaniard, Luis. She explores the cultural contrasts between Spain and the U.S. with great clarity and insight and these add even more fascinating layers to her well-developed characters.

In her story telling, O'Dell often makes insightful commentary on social inequalities and injustices. Her heroes and heroines are often deeply wounded, imperfect people who are struggling to overcome trauma and loss and are not exactly people whose lives you might want to experience. This isn't light reading and she is not afraid to the take her readers on a ride of emotional extremes where a character's dark side can leave you feeling downright queasy or outraged. But she also has a gift for illustrating that it's not what happens to you that matters, but what you choose to do with it, and although there are certainly some dark themes in this novel, there is also a great deal of warmth, humor and courage.
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Format: Hardcover
Fragile Beasts opens with the death of Candace Jack's true love. He is gored by a bull in the opening pages, and then throughout the book we are transported between Spain and the coal country of Pennsylvania. In Pennsylvania we meet Kyle and Klint, two teenage boys who are adrift after having lost their father in a drunk driving accident. How these three meet and manage to find a way to help each other makes for an utterly compelling read. These are all damaged people and Ms. O'Dells touching portrayal of their struggles to come to grips with their pasts and their futures is excellent. She has created some truly memorable characters here, but Candace Jack rules the stage. She is a woman who is larger than life in her small town and it is only gradually that we discover that she has placed herself in a prison since her true loves death, and it is only upon the arrival of Klint and Kyle and her desire to help them escape the opressive environment of their town and their upbringing that she also sees an escape for herself.

The culture of Spain and the art of bullfighting play a huge role in this story and they add a welcome exotic element to the story. Ms. O'Dell does a wonderful job of conjuring the beauty of Spain, the drama of the bullfight ring and the terrible beauty of a Pennsylvania coal town. I truly hope this story finds its way to the big screen; it is truly epic in scope. She invokes such powerful images; I really felt I was there.

This is a great read filled with great characters, great scenery, and a fabulous, well paced plot. I thoroughly enjoyed it and would recommend it to anyone who is a fan of literary fiction. I am a fan of this author and her latest effort did not disappoint!
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