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Fragile Beasts

4.10  ·  Rating details ·  2,194 ratings  ·  318 reviews
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 town's matriarch, an eccentric, wealthy old woman whose family once owned the county coal m ...more
Hardcover, 401 pages
Published March 23rd 2010 by Shaye Areheart Books
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Average rating 4.10  · 
Rating details
 ·  2,194 ratings  ·  318 reviews

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Jul 10, 2012 rated it it was ok
When I read Tawni O'Dell's Coal Run a few years ago, it became an instant favorite. So I was certain that I would love Fragile Beasts. I hate it when I'm wrong. Three stars is probably a little generous. However, parts of it were compelling so I can't quite give it two stars. I guess I'll just settle on 2 1/2.

Set in Pennsylvania coal country, Fragile Beasts tells the story of the wealthy and reclusive Candace Jack, a woman who has tried to recreate the Spain of her youth in the remote mansion w
Apr 14, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I never expected this book to capture me. I'm not even sure why I decided to read it. The thought was in the back of my mind that I might not get through it because bullfighting was in some way involved in the story. But I usually like coming of age stories, so I plowed ahead.

What fabulous characters! Candace Jack, a reclusive spinster with a sizable fortune and a mysterious past; Kyle and Klint Hayes, teenage brothers whose life hits a tailspin after their mother leaves with their little sister
Deb Mj
Dec 11, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
What an absolutely wonderful book. A pair of teenage brothers living in Western Pennsylvania's coal country, abandoned by their mother and living with their father, find themselves alone after their father's accident. Faced with having to move to Arizona with a mother who has already demonstrated that she wants nothing to do with them, they are eventually taken in by a wealthy elderly spinster whose heart is still captured by her past life in Spain and the love of her life, a matador gored to de ...more
Oct 22, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I love this book. Aside from getting me through several hours of workouts (yes, the audio version), its quiet humor and character development were subtle and sweet. Because it switches between characters and time periods, those who struggle with more than a linear narrative might not enjoy this, but I loved that it bridged the past and the present to show how lives become entwined and enriched by those around them. This is so much more than a tale about two boys being taken in by an old lonely w ...more
Jennifer Lane
Oct 25, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I love stories about dysfunctional families, and this was one of the best I've read in a long time.

Fragile Beasts opens with the narration of Kyle Hayes, a 15 year-old boy who adores his older brother, Pennsylvania high-school baseball standout Klint, as well as his younger sister, Krystal. Kyle's attended every one of Klint's baseball games, and has drawn countless pictures for Krystal. Problem is, Krystal now lives far away in Arizona after their mom scooped her up and left their father for an
Jun 19, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Fragile Beasts is a story of unexpected occurrences, the collision of different worlds and,self preservation and strength. Tawni O'Dell has created wonderfully rich, complicated characters that are both layered and flawed. The author has a gift of bring levity into a story to keep the flow going and the balance beautiful and her writing is crisp. Most interesting is the dual story that occurs in Spain a half century prior that delves deeply in the world of a matador, the bull and the fight. I re ...more
Mar 30, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I LOVED this book. It felt like a surprise and an old friend at the same time. The characters were wonderful and the author had a subtle sense of humor that showed up in some unexpected places. I didn't love the content of and reasons for the climax of the book and actually felt it was unnecessary in many ways, which is why I gave it 4 stars instead of 5. But overall, it was a pleasure to read and will be a pleasure to think about and remember. ...more
Kimberly Cook
Jul 23, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I have read Tawni O'Dell's other books but I will say that this is the best of the lot. Beautifully written and merging two cultures that seemingly have nothing in common; Pennsylvania coal country and Spain and the glory of bullfighting. I fell in love with the characters and the wonderfully clever way she twists the story to where it all comes to a tidy close. I love books that clearly end...and this one did in a very satisfying manner. ...more
Mar 19, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is one of the most wonderful books I've read. I couldn't put it down. Tawni O'Dell has the reader choking back the tears one minute and laughing out loud the next. Because that's what the life of her characters is all about, as life is: an ever-tilting balance between tragedy and humour. The adolescent Kyle is extremely convincing in his behaviour and way of thinking. Most endearing, too. But I particularly enjoyed the banter between Candace Jack and Luis. Her quick comebacks and Luis' no-n ...more
Jul 12, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Despite other reviews, this was by far my favorite book by Tawni O'Dell, now a favorite author of mine. Without spoilers, this was well written and thought provoking. When I first read the reviews and description of the book, I truly thought it would not be that good, but was delightfully surprised.

The description doesn't do the book justice. Wonderful novel, compelling characters, just a plain good read. For those who want a book that will touch your soul, this is the one.
Aug 31, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a beautiful story about two orphan boys who are given a home by an elderly woman with no family. The characters are so well developed that I became personally attached to them. Although the storyline is originally about loss and loneliness, it moves to a very satisfying conclusion that will remain with me for some time.
Sep 02, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I loved this book so much! I'm going to recommend it for book club. O'Dell does a wonderful job writing the settings of the book and the characters were unique, funny and poignant. Love it! ...more
Kristina Rogers
Great book!! One of my favorites
Mar 22, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Beautiful story told from several different points of view. It toggles back an forth between present day, small town Pennsylvania coal country and 1959 Spain and bullfighting exploits. Both settings are fascinating and have revelations that surprise, while realistically telling the story of a an old, lonely, wealthy woman and two struggling teenage boys. It also begins with a great first sentence:
"Manuel Obrador knew that he was dead but understood he had not yet finished dying."
Jan 14, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
4.5 Stars. I thoroughly enjoyed this book.
Nov 14, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
7 on 10 scale. Good vacation read.
May 20, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Of all things, Tawni O'Dell is from Indiana, PA, which makes her ok in my book to start with. Recommended by a friend, I loved this book so much I rushed out to the library for "Back Roads" and "Coal Run"! But back to "Fragile Beasts." Tawni deals with consistent locale (western PA coal mining towns) and themes (adversity, becoming an adult) through all of her books and, into that mix, adds well-drawn characters. In "Fragile Beasts," two high school boys are taken in by a wealthy eccentric and t ...more
Aug 20, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2010
Yes, I'm lonesome for Western PA, and I find it comforting to read authors who understand the PA landscape. Yes, I know this is an Oprah kind of book (after all, O'Dell's BACK ROADS was an Oprah Book Club selection.) Still, I loved this tale of a pair of abandoned boys and an edgy, aging spinster. O'Dell nails the voices of her narrators, including the Spainard who has transplanted himself to W. PA. Somewhat amazing that my husband also enjoyed this one, though he found it difficult to suspend h ...more
Jun 15, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I didn't like this book as well as the first book I read of hers, "Coal Run". Coal Run was a powerful and touching book about coal miners. So I had really high expectations here and this book didn't do much for me. I didn't think her young men characters of Klint and Kyle were that believable as young men. And I didn't like that the mom was so evil with no redeeming qualities. It was not believable to me that a woman would hold on to a love affair when she was 20 for over 50 years. All in all th ...more
Diane Groves
Sep 26, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A book set in Western PA coal mining country featuring bull fighting? Crazy, huh. But it was a wonderful story about 2 teenage boys and a pack of family troubles. The author fleshed out all the characters so well that it really pulled me into the story where I was so anxious that everything would turn out well for them all.
May 11, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A slow build but a great read. I empathised with the characters greatly. I enjoyed the story and am glad I pushed through the slow parts. I think I would reread it in a few years. looking forward to reading more of her books.
Aug 16, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
loved it, memorable characters, excellent story, hated it to end. and to think i randomly chose it from the "new books" shelf at the library! ...more
Anne Michaud
Jul 02, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Seriously one of the best books I've read this year.

I loved it so much, and now I miss Miss Jack and Kyle and Luis.

Sep 07, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Another great one by O'Dell. Baseball and bullfighting on a small PA town. Whodaknew. Read it ...more
Nov 04, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Excellent story! I loved it
Mar 13, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Good story but didn't care for the whole bullfighting aspect. ...more
Marian Stauffer
Dec 19, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
First, let me say that I love this author. Her books are generally set in the coal mining towns of Pennsylvania & although this one is also, she has added a whole different story about bullfighting in Spain. Candace Jack is from a rich family who owns coal mines in PA, who falls in love with a bullfighter when traveling through Spain. He is killed early on and Candace transports the bull that killed him to her acreage in the US. Here, she gives him and his progeny a place to live. Fifty years la ...more
Susan Barber
May 16, 2021 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I loved this book. I listened to an audiobook version, and the narrators were terrific, which likely enhanced my enjoyment. That being said, I know I would have loved it anyway. The main characters - Kyle, Candace, Clint, Luis - are very well developed and relatable; I found myself caring deeply for all of them. The two stories, in present day Pennsylvania and in the past in Spain, were easy to follow and helped me to understand the characters’ motivations. Some other reviewers commented that th ...more
Feb 24, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I really enjoyed this complicated, character driven novel about family, love, and forgiveness. I really like it when the ending of a story is not predictable and I like how the stories from Spain were woven in seamlessly without feeling like I was jumping in time all over the place. I would say this is a book for adult readers. There are several discussions of sex, suicide, abuse, and loss that I would not recommend for teens. If you read this let me know as I would love to talk about it with so ...more
Donna Siebold
Jul 01, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Ms. O'Dell does a great job with her settings. The novels I have read have primarily been set in Pennsylvania. In towns that are long past their heyday. This one also has some settings in Spain. I could easily imagine the hot dusty arena of the bull ring, though my only visit was to an empty arena.

When she writes an unlikeable character, i.e., the mother of Kyle and Klint, she does it with no holds barred.

I liked the slow unbending of Miss Jack as she and the boys acclimate and I loved the clima
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Tawni O'Dell is the New York Times bestselling author of Fragile Beasts, Sister Mine, Coal Run, and Back Roads, which was an Oprah's Book Club pick and a Book-of-the-Month Club Main Selection. Tawni's screen adaptation of Back Roads is currently in development to be made into a film with Adrian Lyne set to direct. Her work has been translated into 15 languages and been published in over 30 countri ...more

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