**Reviewed by Renata F. Barcelos for Readers Favorite**
The Fragile Lion is a very different, unique story. It has drama, suspense, mystery and literary elements.
It starts with Justine, an apparently simple schoolteacher in another school day. Soon we realize that this is not an ordinary day; she was not supposed to be working. A tragedy had occurred and she should be home, recovering. Justine, however, has no recollection of what happened and has to rely on what people tell her to unfold her misfortune.
Confused and lonely, she thinks a trip might help. Then she meets an interesting pair: a mother and her child, a girl who simply refuses to eat. Trying to help them, another tragic accident changes their lives forever.
It’s a very different tale. Justine is quite a character; it’s hard to define her in one sentence, since she is not exactly who she seems to be. As her relationship with Sonya, the Sioux child she desperately wants to help, gets stronger, we have the opportunity to learn more about her. Her life has not been easy; she’s almost used to misfortune. As we get to know her past better, it becomes somehow easier to understand her actions.
Her quest to help Sonya is also a quest to help herself. To find purpose to her own life, to find reason to carry on. She thought she had lost everything, but she has a lot to find out; people to reconcile with, guilty to overcome, old debts to pay.
It’s basically a tale of redemption. Justine acts without thinking, without looking back to do what she believes is her obligation, her mission. But meanwhile, she goes learning from point to point.
The dialogue is well written, and a bit enigmatic. The child’s stubbornness is almost annoying and I think I wouldn’t have the patience Justine had. But she’s almost as stubborn as Sonya, which makes them the perfect pair.
I don’t know much about the Sioux Indians, but it seems like Mark Darley did his homework about the Indian culture. The descriptions are very well done, to the point you can easily visualize the scenes.
So much happens in such a short period of time, and still the book flows softly, unrushed.
The ending is very poignant and, even though it lets questions unanswered, it gives the reader reason to hope for a better future.
Overall, a beautiful, touching book that I’d recommend to all drama readers.