“Can two different stories lead to the same happy ending? Or will Rachel stay FRACTURED forever?”

The back cover of Fractured tells of two very different lives led by the same young woman. In one world, twenty-three year old Rachel is alone, miserable, and fighting the inevitable progression of an illness that she can’t – or won’t – find a cure for. In the other, Rachel is a happy, successful young woman affianced to her high school sweetheart and about to discover that he may not, in fact, be her true love.Both stories diverge on an event that took place five years prior: the death – or near escape – of Rachel’s best friend, Jimmy.

It’s a fascinating premise. And it’s made nearly irresistible by the cover art, which features the work of Ami Smithson (cabinlondon.co.uk). In front of a rising moon is a woman walking alone under an umbrella. She is reflected as a carefree couple in the water below. There’s something truly clever there – beyond the obvious. The full moon is an age-old symbol for endings and beginnings. The umbrella relates to the hardships and bad luck in one Rachel’s life. The schism in her world is represented in the negative space between the man and woman reflected beneath her. It’s rare to see a book jacket with such a perfect balance of visual appeal and symbolic meaning.

How I wish I could judge this book by its cover.

I really wanted to like this book. Parallel universes and Schr√∂edinger Love Interests are right up my alley. Unfortunately, in all the excitement, Fractured gets lost in the haze of mirrors reflecting mirrors reflecting mirrors.This story is heavily cliched, but that’s not the problem. It’s more like a copy of a copy of a copy of a story you heard somewhere once (hint: the 1998 film Sliding Doors might be a good starting place). Like an over-xeroxed page that gradually fades into the gloom of diminishing returns, this book has an eerie lack of detail, yet it moves at a snail’s pace through the motions of mundane and predictable events.The characters spend the first several pages in a tedious description of how they approach and enter a restaurant that is never given a name or history. It also appears to lack food. Once inside, the friends talk . . . but we miss what they actually say, because the heroine Rachel is too busy looking at their featureless faces and recalling her memories that are never actually described. Everything is a blank.The only salient feature is the glass window where the author makes the wince-inducing choice to have the narrator examine her own reflection. In penance, she should at least use those contact lenses she wears to give us a crystal clear description of what everyone else looks like. But her halfhearted attempts reduce one female friend to a pair of “perfectly put together” boobs and turns virtually every male except the Love Interest into a pair of eyes that constantly stare at them.

Fractured also suffers from other maladies, one of which is a poor sense of timing. Just after everyone orders food (but what food, we will never know), a car comes crashing through the window.Yet when it actually comes, the car is as slow as a death-march, and its approach is heralded by sirens, the cries of an alarmed tablemate, and the shriek of brakes applied just a little too late.At this point, the car is still three pages away from impact, however.

And that’s not due to any suspense of story-time. Minutes appear to ooze by in the interim. Everyone but Rachel has ample time to escape, to comment on her inability to escape, and then to argue about whether or not she deserves rescue. She herself is “trapped” by a fallen chair, and apparently lacks the strength or common sense to either jump over the table or push it out of the way (lest you think it too heavy, the author made a point of describing it as two small tables pushed together). Luckily her best friend Jimmy is able to pull her over the table since she won’t pull herself. Unfortunately, he must then throw her away from the oncoming car, and is left standing directly in its path as it finally, finally crashes through the glass.

This situation could be a microcosm for the book itself: Fractured gets in its own way, and resorts to overblown solutions it really doesn’t need.
Fractured is the debut novel of Dani Atkins, a woman whose own life involves an improbable and heartwarming love story. There are several parallels between her romance and that of the narrator of Fractured, but those end sadly at the surface.

Pair this book with a glass of Electra California Moscato. Its syrupy sweetness will help you forget the memories of a story never fully told.

– Noir