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Fragile Beasts: A Novel Hardcover – Bargain Price, March 23, 2010
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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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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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Top customer reviews
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. I was alternately laughing out loud at times and reaching for the Kleenex at others.
Bursting into laughter while in the middle of a good cry is something I have experienced only a few times in my life and never has an author been able to take me to both of those emotional extremes at the same time, until now. This was a very rewarding read.
Tawni O'Dell was able to take two different stories, oceans and decades apart, and weave together a book that I could not put down. The book begins when two teenage boys, Kyle and Klint, lose their father in an accident. This leaves them parentless since their selfish mother left them 2 years prior. The mother actually comes to the father's funeral and announces that she is going to take the boys to Arizona with her. The boys do not want this, especially since Klint has such a promising baseball career ahead of him. I remember thinking to myself that is just too bad. She is your mother. O'Dell explains later in the book a terrible secret that Klint carries around with him in regard to his mother.
The description of this book says that both Klint and Miss Jack (the eccentric, wealthy old lady who ends up taking in the boys) both harbor a dark secret. I am not sure what exactly Miss Jack's dark secret was. She was not hiding anything or being affected by anything the way that Klint was. The whole idea of some strange lady who was very wealthy taking in 2 teenage boys was a hard pill for me to swallow. That part of the story was not very believable to me at first. By the end of the story, I could feel the bond that had begun to form between the 3 of them.
One criticism of this book is that there are too many characters. O'Dell keeps introducing people, both with big and little roles. It became tedious trying to keep track of everyone, especially the people in the bullfighting stories. As I stated earlier, this book is supposed to take place in Pittsburgh, PA. However, a large part of it takes place in Spain. Candace Jack (Miss Jack) fell in love with a bullfighter when she was young. Her whole life has been shaped by this love. There are many parts written in Spanish with no translation. Since I don't speak Spanish myself that was very frustrating for me.
O'Dell was able to masterfully tell two stories at once. You would be in Spain, enthralled in a bullfight and the people there. The next chapter you would be back in Pittsburgh. At first the parts about Spain were tedious. I could not figure out how they were to relate to the rest of the story in Pittsburgh. O'Dell was able to connect the dots.
This book is a bizarre and unusual read. I would recommend it, but it is not at the top of my list.
treated well, and often lead "hard scrabble" lives. However, this is reflective of true life where people are not always capable of meeting
However, the author never leaves us feeling the situation is hopeless because as flawed as the characters are, there is enough love to
help the two boys. This love ends up coming from the most unlikely source.
Just because the narrator is a boy, Tawni O'Dell does not write of her character in a patronising way. The author does not talk down to her readers. While we are expected to empathise with the boys, we the readers are also expected to believe they will be able to find their own solutions and we understand they are expected in the end to mourn their childhood losses but get on with the business of making decent lives.