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Fragile Beasts: A Novel Hardcover – Bargain Price, March 23, 2010
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The problem with a book by Tawni O'Dell is that it ends. Far too quickly. It's over and then you are left waiting for her next one. It just doesn't seem fair!!! Tawni O'Dell gets into the human condition and human soul like no other author I've read. She can make you laugh one second, and have you crying in the next instant. She tells a story like no other. Her characters literally bounce right off the written page. She commands your attention and she gets it. Her books are simply the best of the best, ones that you hate to put down, ones you can never stop thinking about.
O'Dell doesn't disappoint in her latest, FRAGLIE BEASTS. Told in narrative form by three separate people -- Candance Jack, Luis, and Kyle, you will instantly be caught up in the lives of these three people and the other characters.
Brothers Klint and Kyle have lost their dad to an accident. Their mom took their younger sister and ran off with another man prior to said accident. Left on their own, the two teenaged brothers definitely do not want to leave Pennsylvania to go live with their estranged mom in Arizona. Besides not getting along with her and feeling totally deserted by her, the boys want to stay put, not only to stay in their home town but in regard to Klint's blossoming and promising baseball career.
The two boys are hesitantly taken in by the town's matriarch, Candance Jack. Candance has led a long and lonely life living in a huge and beautiful mansion. She decides to take in Klint and Kyle after her niece, Shelby, pleads their case. Never having been married and having no children of her own, Candance can't quite believe she is taking on the responsibility of two teenage boys, yet she does. The boys move in and an uneasy yet respected relationship forms between the three of them.
Candance Jack has had a life of heartache and Klint and Kyle bring surprising happiness into her unusually quiet existence. She finds herself happy to have them around and reluctantly begins to care about them. The boys, having just lost their father, and with problems of their own, find life with Candance not so bad, but also different than they ever expected. A bond starts to form within this little family.
O'Dell shares with us Candance's tragic history and weaves past and present skillfully. Klint has a few secrets of his own and as these begin to surface, they bring a whole new set of problems to light.
Candance has surrounded her life with the artifacts and beauty of Spain - from her live-in help, Luis, to art and even a bull who lives on her property. The entire town thinks she is an odd little duck while still being a domineering and somewhat feared presence. Little do people know what makes Candance tick and what her true being consists of. Kyle and Klint living with her brings out the best of Candance, surprising even herself.
O'Dell lets the reader share a year of their lives together, with the ups and down, terrible secrets becoming known, glimpses into Candance's brief time in Spain and what transpired there, Kyle and Klint overcoming the death of their dad and learning to live their new lives with Candance.
This is probably one of the best books I have read in a long time. The words literally flow, the characters are fleshed-out people that you would love to know. I will think about this book for a long time to come and recommend it to everyone I know.
If you haven't had the opportunity to read other books by O'Dell, make it a point to do so. They are -- BACK ROADS, COAL RUN, and SISTER MINE. Each book is delicious and wonderful and shouldn't be missed. FRAGILE BEASTS is probably my favorite of the four and I anxiously look forward to O'Dell's next work.
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.