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Fragile Reader’s Guide

By Lisa Unger

Fragile by Lisa Unger


The introduction and discussion questions that follow are designed to enhance your group’s discussion of Fragile, bestselling author Lisa Unger’s latest “nail-biting, nuanced whodunit” (—People).


Everybody knows everybody in The Hollows, a quaint, charming town outside of New York City. It’s a place where neighbors keep an eye on one another’s kids, where people say hello in the grocery store, and where high school cliques and antics are never quite forgotten. As a child, Maggie found living under the microscope of small-town life stifling. But as a wife and mother, she has happily returned to The Hollows’s insular embrace. As a psychologist, her knowledge of family histories provides powerful insights into her patients’ lives. So when the girlfriend of her teenage son, Rick, disappears, Maggie’s intuitive gift proves useful to the case—and also dangerous. 

Eerie parallels soon emerge between Charlene’s disappearance and the abduction of another local girl that shook the community years ago when Maggie was a teenager. The investigation has her husband, Jones, the lead detective on the case, acting strangely.  Rick, already a brooding teenager, becomes even more withdrawn.  In a town where the past is always present, nobody is above suspicion, not even a son in the eyes of his father.  

“I know how a moment can spiral out of control,” Jones says to a shocked Maggie as he searches Rick’s room for incriminating evidence. “How the consequences of one careless action can cost you everything.”

As she tries to reassure him that Rick embodies his father in all of the important ways, Maggie realizes this might be exactly what Jones fears the most. Determined to uncover the truth, Maggie pursues her own leads into Charlene’s disappearance and exposes a long-buried town secret—one that could destroy everything she holds dear.

Questions and Topics for Discussion

1. Discuss the novel’s title. Who are The Hollows’s most fragile residents? Ultimately, who are the most resilient ones?

2. What makes Jones and Maggie a good couple? How would you have reacted to Jones’s revelations if you had been Maggie? What life lessons—for better or worse—do they impart to Rick?

3. What accounts for Travis’s hatred of women? What spurred the cycles of violence in the Crosby family?

4. How did your opinion of Marshall shift throughout the novel, from his session with Maggie in chapter three to the powerful closing scenes? What does it take to defeat the emotional grip of an abuser?

5. How does Elizabeth cope with the responsibilities she accumulated after shepherding students for most of her lifetime? What does she teach Maggie about motherhood?

6. In chapter nine, Lisa Unger describes the way Maggie, Melody, and Denise behaved in high school. Did they change very much over the years? Did high school predict your life accurately?

7. Is Melody a good mother? What attracted her to Graham? How did the truth compare to your theories about him?

8. Facebook plays a role in the race to rescue Charlene, but was it a healthy resource for her friends? Does it enhance or distort reality?

9. In his pivotal phone call to Maggie, Marshall asks, “How do you know if you’re a good person?” How would you have answered this question?

10. How does The Hollows reflect the personalities of the people who live there? What makes it a charming place to live? How does the landscape, rugged yet scenic, make it a place where secrets can exist in plain sight? How does its proximity to New York City affect the characters’ dreams?

11. Through Wanda, Charlie finally finds the courage to believe in himself. What enables him to accept Wanda’s love? How does his story reflect the way the novel unfolds?

12. Who is ultimately responsible for what happened to Sarah? Could anything or anyone have prevented the circumstances that led to her death?

13. Would Tommy Delano have received better treatment in the twenty-first century?

14. Do you think of your family, or your community, as being open and candid, or do they have a lot to hide? Discuss a time when you discovered something potentially damaging about a loved one’s past. How did you handle it? Has your own past ever haunted you?

15. Discuss Fragile’s connections to the other Unger novels you have read. How do her characters approach the line between good and evil?

(For a complete list of available reading group guides, and to sign up for the Reading Group Center enewsletter, visit

About this Author

Lisa Unger is the New York Times bestselling author of Beautiful Lies and Black Out.  Her novels have been published in more than twenty-five countries.  She lives in Florida with her husband and daughter.
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