Edit ModuleEdit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags

"Fragile Beasts" by Tawni O’Dell



Fragile Beasts
Tawni O’Dell
Shaye Areheart Books • $25.00

Thus far, by writer’s standards, Tawni O’Dell has had quite a blessed life. Not only has her career been blessed—once by the Oprah Book Club and again by the Book-of-the-Month Club Main Selection (all of which helped push her onto The New York Times’ bestsellers’ list)—but she is blessed with a true gift for storytelling.

Fragile Beasts, O’Dell’s fourth novel, showcases her talent once again for crafting seamlessly interwoven narratives and three-dimensional worlds, complete with damaged, well-sketched characters and authentic detail. As a writer, O’Dell very much believes in the power of place, and for her, that place is the coal mining region of western Pennsylvania—a setting she has (ahem) mined for inspiration again and again. They say write what you know, and by having the fortune of growing up in Indiana, Pa., O’Dell is following that formula to a “T.”

But Fragile Beasts diverges from her past work a bit. Sure, the plot, which churns along at a mighty clip, focuses on teenage brothers Kyle and Klint, the products of a blue-collar upbringing and replete with a life full of infirmity and absent parents—one due to alcohol and the other to neglect. Though the boys are victims of place and class, both show a world of promise—Kyle is bright and artistic, while Klint, a troubled high school baseball star, is burdened by the weight of a terrible secret and an entire town’s hopes for redemption and glory.

When their father dies in a one-car drunk driving accident, the boys have few options: either move to Arizona with the mother who abandoned them or “run away.” But in a strange twist of fate, their town’s matriarch Candace Jack, an eccentric, wealthy old woman whose family once owned the country coal mines, for reasons unbeknownst even to her, decides to take the boys in. Miss Jack, though once proud and beautiful, is now a 75-year-old eccentric spinster who has lived a secluded life ever since the tragic death of her lover, a famed Spanish bullfighter, Manuel, more than 50 years prior. Her obsession with Manuel’s death runs deep—and not only includes caring for the descendant of the bull who killed him and living with the man’s main assistant, Luis, who came to the states to care for the bulls.

Sure, the story is stuffed with blue-collar Joes and down-on-their-luck folks, but page space is shared equally between Laurel County and Spain, Candace Jack and the boys (with a few chapters put aside for Luis), proving that O’Dell’s knowledge of place carries well beyond coal country. According to her bio, O’Dell is married to a translator and splits her time between Pennsylvania and Spain, and she’s obviously gained enough insight into the country to dispel (through the character of Luis) “three popular American misconceptions about [the] country and [its] people […] Spain is nothing like Mexico; Antonio Banderas is nothing like a Spaniard; and Ernest Hemingway knew nothing about bullfighting.”

This is the type of book perfect for summer reading—full of page-turning conflict, emotional tension, tinges of humor and beautiful prose: Four-hundred pages have never moved so quickly.

Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit Module

Edit ModuleShow TagsEdit ModuleShow Tags
Edit Module Edit ModuleShow Tags

The Latest

Electric Scooter Rideshare Launching in Pittsburgh

Scoobi will offer an eco-friendly alternative to cars and a speedier alternative to bikes beginning in June

Is Kennywood's Phantom’s Revenge Best Coaster in USA?

The fastest amusement park ride in Pennsylvania is currently in the running for best roller coaster — and it’s gained plenty of speed.

Director and “Mr. McFeely” Discuss “Won't You Be My Neighbor?”

The director of the forthcoming Mr. Rogers documentary sits down with the longtime Mr. McFeely and Pittsburgh Magazine.

Pittsburgh Teen Chess Phenom to Host Her First-Ever Tourney

Chess enthusiast Ashley Lynn Priore hopes to enrich the Steel City’s involvement in one of the most classic and challenging of board games.

Hungry for Something Good, Pittsburgh? Where We're Eating in June

We're obsessed with Greekfreez vegan frozen treats, taking a first look at the new menu at Independent Brewing Company and traveling to The Tavern on the Square. Plus, we talk to Poulet Bleu pastry chef James D. Wroblewski II.

Working in a Steel Mill Turns Fantastical in 'The Glass Lung'

Pittsburgher Anjali Sachdeva’s first book blends the normal with fantasy in nine short stories.

Top 10 Things to Do in Pittsburgh in June

This month's best bets in the ’Burgh.

Pittsburgh Flicks and Nightlife in June

PM Nightlife Editor Sean Collier explores the popularity of Coughlin's Law on Mt. Washington and the future of Jump Cut Theater.

Pittsburgh's Can't Miss Concerts in June

The Pittsburgh music calendar is packed this month. Check out some of our suggestions for the best ways to spend those steamy summer nights.

June: Best of Culture in Pittsburgh

Check out some of the finest stage plays, dance performances and exhibits taking place this month in Pittsburgh.

Undercover: What We're Reading in June

Reviews of Smoketown: The Untold Story of the Other Great Black Renaissance by Mark Whitaker and Abandoned Pittsburgh: Steel and Shadows by Chuck Beard

Perspectives: How Cold Is Too Cold for Spiders to Live?

A former Marine and Pittsburgh firefighter comes face-to-face with his biggest fear.

Urban League of Greater Pittsburgh Faces Centennial Challenges

This year marks a milestone anniversary — and questions regarding the emerging digital economy — for the Urban League of Greater Pittsburgh.

Highmark Stadium Struggles To Accommodate Music Fans

The Station Square venue could be a good place to see a concert. It's not there yet.

CMU Launches America’s First Degree in Artificial Intelligence

Starting this fall, undergraduates at Carnegie Mellon will have the option to earn a degree in one of the world’s fastest growing fields.
Edit Module
Edit ModuleShow Tags


Electric Scooter Rideshare Launching in Pittsburgh

Electric Scooter Rideshare Launching in Pittsburgh

Scoobi will offer an eco-friendly alternative to cars and a speedier alternative to bikes beginning in June

Comments

Is Kennywood's Phantom’s Revenge Best Coaster in USA?

Is Kennywood's Phantom’s Revenge Best Coaster in USA?

The fastest amusement park ride in Pennsylvania is currently in the running for best roller coaster — and it’s gained plenty of speed.

Comments


All the foodie news that's fit to blog
Lorelei Will Open in the Former Livermore/Pines Space

Lorelei Will Open in the Former Livermore/Pines Space

The owners of Independent Brewing Company and Hidden Harbor plan to bring a beer hall and cafe to East Liberty.

Comments

An Inclusive Community Breaks the Ramadan Fast at Salem's Market & Grill

An Inclusive Community Breaks the Ramadan Fast at Salem's Market & Grill

The Strip District restaurant draws a diverse community to its nightly ifṭār buffet.

Comments


Not just good stuff. Great stuff.
Best Places to Introduce Children to the Performing Arts

Best Places to Introduce Children to the Performing Arts

When you see a show at one of these organizations, you may enjoy it as much as the children.

Comments

The 4 Best Sports to Try This Spring in Pittsburgh

The 4 Best Sports to Try This Spring in Pittsburgh

Looking to switch up your physical activity now that it finally feels like spring? We found four sports you can play locally that you may never have considered.

Comments


Highmark Stadium Struggles To Accommodate Music Fans

Highmark Stadium Struggles To Accommodate Music Fans

The Station Square venue could be a good place to see a concert. It's not there yet.

Comments

Take a Tricky Trip To Mars at Escape Room 51

Take a Tricky Trip To Mars at Escape Room 51

The new escape room in Pleasant Hills is a great game for newer players.

Comments


Mike Prisuta's Sports Section

A weekly look at the games people are playing and the people who are playing them.
Here We Go? Steelers Have More Than a New England Issue This Time

Here We Go? Steelers Have More Than a New England Issue This Time

At this time last year the Steelers perceived themselves, and rightfully so, as a team that was a mere win over the Patriots away from returning to the Super Bowl. This year, the focus is elsewhere.

Comments

Surprising Pirates Proving to be an Acquired Taste This Season

Surprising Pirates Proving to be an Acquired Taste This Season

For the time being, at least, fans continue to send owner Bob Nutting a message wrapped in apathy.

Comments


The movies that are playing in Pittsburgh –– and, more importantly, whether or not they're worth your time.
The 400-Word Review: Solo: A Star Wars Story

The 400-Word Review: Solo: A Star Wars Story

The Star Wars series experiments with telling an origin story, with mixed results.

Comments

The 400-Word Review: Pope Francis: A Man of His Word

The 400-Word Review: Pope Francis: A Man of His Word

The careful documentary is a valuable document of the pontiff's philosophy. As a film, there are issues.

Comments


Everything you need to know about getting married in Pittsburgh today.
Wine Classes Keep the Pre-Wedding Celebration Classy

Wine Classes Keep the Pre-Wedding Celebration Classy

Palate Partners School of Wine & Spirits offers a chance for brides- and grooms-to-be to explore libations before (or instead of) a night on the town.

Comments

He Recovers from Stroke to Officiate Granddaughter's Wedding

He Recovers from Stroke to Officiate Granddaughter's Wedding

It was always Ashley Watkins’ dream to have her grandfather perform her wedding ceremony — but a serious illness almost got in the way.

Comments


Weekly inspiration for your home from the editors of Pittsburgh Magazine
From Milan to Pittsburgh: These are the Kitchen Concepts of the Future

From Milan to Pittsburgh: These are the Kitchen Concepts of the Future

Local interior designer Lauren Levant traveled to Italy for the influential Salon del Mobile show featuring the latest innovations in the furniture and design industry. With an emphasis on quality over quantity, these are the kitchen concepts she says will be making their way stateside.

Comments

Get Creative: Pittsburgh Podcast Inspires 'Girl Bosses'

Get Creative: Pittsburgh Podcast Inspires 'Girl Bosses'

Thinking about starting a creative business but don't know where to start? From photography to interior design, Gamechangers, the new podcast from local textile designer Savannah Hayes, gives a behind-the-scenes look at the design industry from the female perspective.

Comments