Interweaving the stories of three broken characters, this poignant novel traces the paths of Amelia Geist, Tris Holloway, and Holly Schenck. Amelia, in a lifelong act of penitence and defiance, has remained a virgin and saved herself for Tris, her first love, who abandoned her more than 50 years ago. A few weeks from retirement, Tris lives in the hills above Silicon Valley, trapped within a loveless marriage and shattered by his decision to leave Amelia all those years ago. Their only hope for reconnection is Holly, a single mother without means, who is trying to mend her life while confined to a hospital bed, a victim of her own suicide attempt. The fragmented stories of these individuals are linked by a profound truth and an astonishing connection that transcends the boundaries between this world and the next.
Three characters with inter-locking lives are presented in this book. Each carries his/her regrets and painful memories, which are examined with precision by the author. The end is haunting and poignant, and the prose flows effortlessly. I will especially remember Amelia, whose life was lived based on a love never meant to be. Tris, the object of her heartfelt dreams from long ago, is mired in a marriage that never should have been. Holly has a painful past of abuse, which never allows her to be more than an object and cripples her as a mother and as a person of worth. This novel is redolent with sadness and well written.
Chris Katsaropoulos knows what he's about: he has served in the roles of editor and publisher with such prestigious houses as McGraw-Hill, Pearson Prentice Hall and Macmillan, he has authored trade and technical books (some, pertinent to this book, dealing with the Internet as business) and he and his wife founded Emergent Learning LLC after encountering out-of-boy experiences. In FRAGILE, his first novel, he combines all of these elements of knowledge and experience and has written an experimental book that, like it title is fragile; this i a book of fragments not unlike the encounters we all face in life - moments that seem coincidental and unimportant at the time but which later lead to insights and even behavior changes completely unexpected. There is an element of 'higher meaning' in this story that makes it fascinating to finish and to contemplate the experience of reading it. But it is not without problems.
Katsaropoulos has created a story of three seemingly disparate people - the intentionally unmarried Amelia Geist clinging to promises made fifty years ago to love only one man - the unhappily married Tristan Holloway whose longing for the explanation of why he left Amelia years ago still haunts him - and the single mother Holly Schenck, biding her time as a hair dresser while she erodes her own self image with bad decisions. The three come together in what appears to be mundane circumstances but that prove to be a gate to understanding and piecing together each of their fragile lives.
The manner of story telling the author has chose seems almost a reaction to the many first novels he surveyed as an editor looking for something unique that would make a novel, otherwise well crafted but dull, interesting. His technique is to parcel out the story in fragments that transition at vulnerable moments in the story to other situations in each of the three characters lives. At first it seems like Internet Twittering or alphabet soup and can be confusing and disorienting for the first pages, but once the reader 'catches on' to the technique of fragmentation, the author's choice pushes the story into a fresh realm. For this reader this novel is more like a screenplay than a novel: that is not a bad thing. It seems at times as though the author is under the literary spell of James Joyce - but that is another discussion. In the end this is a 'novel' to admire for its technique, but it seems to leave the reader uninvolved with caring about these three people. Maybe as a screenplay with a solid director and some fine actors the story would feel different. But that, too, is another discussion. For lovers of experimental literature this book is tasty.
This is a highly creative and deeply satisfying novel. At times, the experimental parts are a bit unnerving, until you understand that the author changes viewpoint character smack dab in the middle of a sentence. We have three very different viewpoint characters: a 65-year-old spinster, the 65-year-old man she saved herself for, and a single mother hairdresser. Their stories intertwine in fascinating ways, so that we are confronted with questions such as, a) what is a life all about? b) comparing attempted suicide with death itself; c) how a person can heal from past victimization in order to achieve a healthier future, and much more.
One problem I had with the story was that the 65-year-old woman (who was somehow preparing for her 50th high school reunion, which would have put her more at 68), seemed way older than most people I know who are this age. She thought and acted a lot more like an 80-year-old to me.
Also, I had problems with the author waxing eloquent for page after page about existential experience. I found these passages hard to understand, even though I appreciated what the author was trying to do. The passages where he tried to describe the experience of death were really interesting. But never having had a near-death experience, I can't evaluate whether they felt "right" or not.
I really admire this author, and the courage he exhibits. Shifting viewpoint character mid-sentence does make the reader feel that there is only one Mind in the universe, and that we are all connected at a deep level. When I finished this book, I didn't want to start another for a while, so as to have a while to "digest" the many concepts it contained. That, to me, is the sign of an excellent novel.
Fragile Author: Chris Katsaropoulos Publisher: Luminis Books ISBN: 978-1-935462-27-9
Mesmerizing and beautiful, a truly stunning book! Katsaropoulos is new to writing fiction, and his first novel sets the bar incredibly high. This book takes the reader into the minds and hearts of three very different people: Holly, a beautician and single mom of 2 young daughters, involved once again with the wrong man for all the wrong reasons, leading a life of self destruction.
Tris, a well to do businessman nearing retirement age, with an overbearing wife and lots of regret about the past, and the childhood love he left behind.
And Amelia, abandoned by the love of her life, her childhood sweetheart, more than fifty years ago. She's living a virginial life of self denial and emptiness, with a never ending hope for a return of that long lost childhood love she lost.
In what can only be described as a truly unique style, the author takes us from the thoughts of one character directly into the next: an ongoing narrative of a brief portion of these three lives, to a moment of intersection so hauntingly profound and exquisite, it will leave the reader astounded and deeply moved.
With a debut such as this, I see a wonderfully promising future for this author. A story and characters you will never forget, with a message as old and true as time itself. I have already read this twice, and marveled at it even more the second reading. I can not recommend this book highly enough! A true classic for the ages.
Fragile by Chris Katsaropoulos is an experiential novel about what pulls us together and apart. Amelia Geist saved herself for her childhood love, Tris Holloway, even though he has long abandoned her. Holly Schenk is just trying to make ends meet to take care of her two daughters alone, but she can't seem to want the right man. Tris, Amelia's love, is ready to retire, but his wife has tired of him and is cleaning out all remnants of their life together while he tries to find purpose in the last days of his job. Three very different people who are all struggling to feel love and be loved are all portrayed as fragile and vulnerable by Katsaropoulos. The narration jumps from one character to the next without notice right in the middle of a sentence which takes a little getting used to, but when the story picks up with the meeting of Amelia and Holly, it becomes natural, giving the novel a very organic and authentic voice. Amelia realizes that when she turned her back on love after losing Tris, she wasted much of her life. Holly is constantly seeking men who will only abuse and leave her while ignoring the good man right in front of her. Tris settled for his wife when all he really wanted was Amelia and is now paying for it in a bitter marriage. The stories are sad, but Katsaropoulos does a wonderful job of keeping the thread of hope alive in each of them, as though a happy ending is just around the corner. It's a small story with a large impact.
I started this book with a bit of a preconceived notion of what I would be reading. I'll admit, it wasn't the most positive of expectations. And when I first came to a part where a sentence was broken off in the middle and a new paragraph was starting, I was appalled at the bad editing I had suspected slipped through the cracks. I was then presently surprised. I've read a lot of books that switched points of view, and while many of them were surperb books I could not get past the unhappiness I felt at the point of view shifts. They are very low on my list of things I like. However, Fragile pulled these off beautifully, and in a way that was new. They were dramatic and suited the storyline perfectly, and most importantly stayed perfect throughout the whole book. This may be the first time I have read a book with several point of views in which I truly enjoyed the shifts. Masterfully done. The characters were believable and the plot, while not precisely my cup of tea, was engaging. The style of writing became a little tedious at times and the characters did not quite capture the beauty I was looking for in the book, but that took away from it very little. It was by no means the best book I have ever read, but it is worth reading--if only for the creative POV.
Disclosure: This book was given to me through the Goodreads "First Read" program.
If half stars were available this would be 2 1/2, not quite a 3. There's some amazing character depth here, and considering the three main characters tell almost all their own stories, that's a big statement. We see more of these people than they think they are revealing. Also, the settings are very well done, from the cookie cutter mid-range hotel to the soon to be demolished old style movie palace. Katsaropoulos understands how locations can form personalities. However, despite the well done story telling technique of having one character's narration take over in mid-sentence from another's, the story isn't really all that well joined up. The triangle that is said to form between the three characters, that one is necessary for the other two to find peace is simply not true. That one character could be pulled out altogether, and the other two would probably end the same way. Yes, there's crossover, but it's not needed to move the story forward. It's there because each character has a story of their own to tell.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
I was enjoying it more before this one particular event when the narration gets kind of psychedelic and even more stream-of-consciousness and disjointed. I found the format both frustrating and intriguing. This story is told by three narrators, and the narration switches between them, abruptly, mid-sentence, hinging on a common word or phrase like a "Before and After" puzzle on Wheel of Fortune. This was kind of cool, but I had two problems with it: 1) It made pausing when my break ended less clean-cut than I usually like, because there are basically no chapters. And 2) it wasn't always immediately apparent who the new narrator was. Come to think of it, Katsaropoulos may have done that on purpose.... Anyway, if you don't like multiple narrators, steer clear. If you like chapters, steer clear. If you aren't so picky, this one might be an interesting choice, but it didn't really leave me with a very strong impression.
This book is probably 3 1/2 stars. The story was very intriguing as 3 character's lives and stories are woven together. Amelia, an older woman, has saved herself for the love of her life. Tris, her childhood friend and love, is currently in a loveless marriage and suffering with knowledge of the past. Holly, a single mom, is looking for love but unfortunately because of an incident in her childhood she is a broken and a forlorn woman. All three of these characters are "fragile" as their lives touch each other. The way this story is written is very unique.
This is an interesting book told from three different points of view. There are times when the story is hard to follow due to the rapid changes in the point of view. The ending of the book is unexpected where the man Tris regretted leaving Amelia fifty years ago while Amelia vowed to never have sex with another man other than Tris. Holly is a single mom who can not be without a boyfriend. The three characters are broken in their own way.
Fragile is the debut novel of Chris Katsaropoulos, a keen observer of human nature whose prose is innovative, poetic, and at times truly transcendent. While juggling three different perspectives, he keeps us very much in the moment and yet the past is always present (and deeply felt) for his characters.
Didn't think I would like this at all at first. Unique way of writing the story. Told from the perspective of 3 different people. The last word in a sentence is sometimes also the first word of a different veiwpoint. Hard to follow at first but then I got used to it.
This book was wonderful - experimental in structure, and beautifully crafted. It's a story of human nature and intricacies and of how we all fit together, when we're broken, and when we're whole. Fragile made me think and consider many things, the characters lingering even after I finished reading.