When their hard-drinking, but loving, father dies in a car accident, teenage brothers Kyle and Klint Hayes face a bleak prospect: leaving their Pennsylvania hometown for an uncertain life in Arizona with the mother who ran out on them years ago. But in a strange twist of fate, their towns matriarch, an eccentric, wealthy old woman whose family once owned the county coal mines, hears the boys story. Candace Jack doesnt have an ounce of maternal instinct, yet for reasons she does not even understand herself, she is compelled to offer them a home.
Suddenly, the two boys go from living in a small, run-down house on a gravel road to a stately mansion filled with sumptuous furnishings and beautiful artworkartwork thats predominantly centered, oddly, on bullfighting. And then theres Miss Jacks real-life bull: Ventiscoa regal, hulking, jet-black beast who roams the land she owns with fiery impudence.
Kyle adjusts more easily to the transition. A budding artist, he finds a kindred spirit in Miss Jack. But local baseball hero Klint refuses to warm up to his new benefactress and instead throws himself into his game with a fierceness that troubles his little brother. Klint is not just grieving his fathers death; hes carrying a terrible secret that he has never revealed to anyone. Unbeknownst to the world, Candace Jack has a secret tooa tragic, passionate past in Spain that the boys presence threatens to reveal as she finds herself caring more for them than she ever believed possible.
From the muted, bruised hills of Pennsylvania coal country to the colorful, flamboyant bull rings of southern Spain, Tawni ODell takes us on a riveting journey not only between two completely different lands, but also between seemingly incompatible souls, casting us under her narrative spell in which characters and places are rendered with fragile tenderness.
"O'Dell's eye for class conflict remains as sharp as ever, but she's broadened the reach of her sympathies, tamed her taste for lurid plotting and found new depths in her subject matter and her human understanding." - Kirkus Reviews
"ODell can overdo the sentiment, but shes a pro at capturing dialogue, and some characters wisecracks are laugh-out-loud funny." - Publishers Weekly
"Her hard-hitting, well-crafted story packs a wallop." - Library Journal
"In this tough and tender tale, ODell's triumphant portrait of loss and rejection, sanctuary and redemption, shines with poignancy, dignity, and transcendent joy." - Booklist
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Rated of 5
I've been a fan of Tawni O'Dell since reading "Back Roads" in 1999. She doesn't disappoint with "Fragile Beasts".
It offers the gamut of the fragility of innocence, grief and young love to the underbelly of greed, family secrets and - who'd have imagined it would work with the imagery of a coal mining community in Pennsylvania - even bullfighting!
Kyle and Klint Hayes, brothers suddenly without a father and newly relocated to the home of wealthy, bull-owning spinster Candace Jack, have rich voices. Each is believable in his dealings with loss and the adjustments of a new home and lifestyle. Kyle is endearing and kind while Klint has rough edges and a searing secret. Their teen voices and sibling connections ring true, but for me it's Candace Jack who makes the book a thrilling read.
As a resident of both Pennsylvania and Spain, O'Dell easily delivers natural and visceral depictions of each that will have readers traveling nonchalantly between both cultures.
"Fragile Beasts" encompasses the vulnerability and unruliness of the brothers, the lineage of captive bulls, and the weakest links of the armor that each of the characters wears.
Tawni O'Dell is the New York Times bestselling author of the novels
Sister Mine, Coal Run, Fragile Beasts, and Back Roads, which was an
Oprah's Book Club pick and a Book-of-the-Month Club Main Selection. Back
Roads is currently in development to be made into a film by Michael Ohoven
at Infinity Media, the producer of the Academy-Award-winning, Capote.
She is also a contributor to the anthology, Becoming Myself: Reflections on
Growing Up Female.
Born and raised in Indiana (also the hometown of Jimmy Stewart) in the Allegheny Mountains of western Pennsylvania ("a beautiful ruined place where the rolling hills are pitted with dead gray mining towns like cigarette burns on a green carpet") ODell has been writing fiction since she read Roald Dahl's James ...
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