Set in small town Michigan, Untethered paints a picture of an idyllic life for Bradley and Char, with Bradley’s daughter Allie as the centerpiece of their family. Allie’s mother Lindy is conveniently absent, living the California life.

But from the first page, the family is torn asunder in the aftermath of Bradley’s accidental death, leaving behind the sadness and the sense of a family adrift. Packing up Bradley’s desk, going through memories together, and trying to accept the condolence calls and casseroles, Char’s new life feels empty. Who is she, if not Bradley’s wife and Allie’s stepmother? Now that she has “lost” these roles, she is vulnerable to Lindy’s sudden demands for Allie, as well as to Allie’s behavior, which has turned distant, sullen, and rude. Her grades are slipping, she has chosen questionable new friends, and nothing Char can do seems to turn things around.

What is more challenging is that everyone seems poised, waiting for Lindy to call the shots regarding Allie, while she passively controls all of them when she keeps changing her mind. Yet when Allie visits her for spring break, she is mostly absent every day until late at night. Char feels at the mercy of Lindy’s whims, and believes that Lindy’s behavior is creating a wedge between her and Allie.

Allie has a unique bond with a ten-year-old girl named Morgan, adopted out of foster care. Morgan has mental health issues and a dramatic (and annoying) way about her. When Allie began tutoring her, they connected. Their relationship becomes a focus later in the novel when something happens to the girl. Something that will stun them all. Will Char and Allie’s bonding moments over Morgan’s trauma help connect them again? Will Lindy use the episode to tear them apart even further?

It was easy to empathize with Char, but she did have a tendency to sit back and let others call the shots, even the teenager, whom she seemed afraid to cross. The way she dealt with Lindy seemed too conciliatory, and I often wanted to yell at her. Allie’s rudeness and passive-aggressiveness was annoying, but she also seemed to be calling out for someone, anyone, to take control. Lindy, of course, was so unlikeable that I hurried through the pages that showed her condescending attitudes and inability to remember the names of everyone that she had known for years. She had a way of putting everyone down, which may have been a way of covering her insecurities in the mothering role.

Themes of blended families, the broken foster care system, and abandonment did keep me engaged, and I enjoyed the story. But after the intensity of Allie and Morgan’s traumatic episode, the ending was wrapped up a little quickly, fast forwarding to two years in the future. I would have preferred being shown how the events unfolded, but the conclusion was a satisfying one. 4 stars.

ratings worms 4-cropped***


  1. This sounds interesting and as a stepmother myself I like that the main character is a stepmother and not an evil one! I can understand Char’s reluctance to do anything as in most cases as a stepparent you have no legal rights once the parent is gone and her relationship with Allie is completely at Lindy’s whim. That being said I can see where that would get frustrated to read about and it sounds like there are some pacing flaws as well. Still what an interesting concept!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I enjoyed the issues. I’ve never been a stepmother, but I’m a stepgrandmother. Which is quite different.

      I admire those who can handle the role so well, as I thought Char did in the book…for the most part. Thanks for visiting, Katherine.


  2. Must be difficult in the best of situations to be a stepmother and I loved that you got frustrated with Char at times because she was too diffident. I dislike it when a book is wrapped up to quickly, it is like the author suddenly has had enough!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes, there was so much intensity toward the end, and the characters had made some big decisions. But then we didn’t get to see them unfold; instead the author “told” us about them in a “two years later” chapter.

      Otherwise, I loved it, Kathryn. Thanks for stopping by.

      Liked by 1 person


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