The Nature of Fragile Things by Susan Meissner is a mystery novel that takes around the time of the San Francisco earthquake of 1906. The author does a fantastic job of describing the destruction from the earthquake and resulting fires that left half of the population homeless.
The novel starts with Irish immigrant, Sophie Hocking, being questioned by a U.S. Marshall regarding the disappearance of her husband, Martin, after the earthquake. The Marshall is curious as to why Sophie waited more than 6 weeks to report Martin missing. The questioning of the U. S. Marshall regarding Sophie’s past in Ireland makes her look like a suspect in his disappearance.
The story then goes back to 1904 when Sophie first arrived in San Francisco and married the handsome, but aloof Martin the same day she met him. Sophie, who had been living in a New York City tenement was desperate to escape her unhappy life. She answered an ad Martin had placed in the newspaper seeking a wife and mother for his five-year-old daughter, Kat. Martin tells Sophie his job requires him to travel overnight on a regular basis. He explains that Kat has been withdrawn and has barely spoken since her mother died five months ago. While he is away, Sophie and Kat become very close. It is clear that Martin has no feelings for Sophie, and she is fine with that. She is happy to live in a lovely home and raise Kat, who she considers to be her daughter.
Martin is away one night when a young pregnant woman named Belinda shows up at the house. She is looking for her husband who she thinks works for Martin. The women’s lives quickly become entwined when they discover shocking information hidden in Martin’s desk. As the two are preparing to leave the house with Kat the next morning, the earthquake hits. Belinda goes into premature labor while the city is on fire. The women must not only survive the quake but need to make sure Martin does not harm them. Sophie then goes to find a third woman who is also connected to Martin and Kat.
4-stars. I especially enjoyed the historical fiction aspects of the novel. I listened to the audiobook which is 10 hours and 40 minutes. This book was published on February 2, 2021, and has a 4.29/5 rating on Goodreads.