REVIEW: UNTETHERED, BY JULIE LAWSON TIMMER

27272424

 

 

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***

MUSING & CHASING AWAY THE BLUES

blue-monday-logo

I am feeling a surge of energy, now that the holidays are behind me.  Do they sometimes pack a punch, and remind you of your fragility?  As if the years are showing in our bodies and not just our faces?

Join Miz B, at Should Be Reading, and others who will be pondering these topics:

 

• Describe one of your reading habits.
• Tell us what book(s) you recently bought for yourself or someone else, and why you chose that/those book(s).
• What book are you currently desperate to get your hands on? Tell us about it!
• Tell us what you’re reading right now — what you think of it, so far; why you chose it; what you are (or, aren’t) enjoying it.
• Do you have a bookish rant? Something about books or reading (or the industry) that gets your ire up? Share it with us!
• Instead of the above questions, maybe you just want to ramble on about something else pertaining to books — let’s hear it, then!
• What are you currently reading? What do you think you’ll read next? What did you recently finish reading?

***

As usual, I’ll be rambling today.  My motto here, at this site, is Chasing Away the Blues, and I do it most effectively through reading…and blogging.

Did you all manage to get through the holidays with a modicum of joy and few frustrations?

Every holiday seems to bring a little of both…and more.  Sometimes family can wear us down, but then we remind ourselves of all those families in the books we read…the ones we are glad not to belong to.

Like the book I am reading now, I Love You More, in which a man is murdered, and probably by one of the three “wives” he had in secret.

 

 

81BcwAc8e0L._SL1500_

 

The story has multiple narrators, from the young daughter of the murdered man with the intriguing name of “Picasso,” to the detective on the case.  And then the voice of the “wives,” in a plural perspective, which was interesting.

Next, I hope to read A Small Indiscretion, the last review book on my stack of Vine books…for now.  As I have requested two more.

 

 

91fQR-bOAgL._SL1500_

 

For readers of Meg Wolitzer, Elizabeth Strout, and Anna Quindlen, A Small Indiscretion is a gripping and ultimately redemptive novel of love and its dangers, marriage and its secrets, youth and its treacherous mistakes.

***

The two books coming this week from Vine:

 

After Birth, by Elisa Albert

 

 

51TKfRc-CZL

A widely acclaimed young writer’s fierce new novel, in which childbirth and new motherhood are as high stakes a proving ground as any combat zone

 

And then:

 

All Day and a Night, by Alafair Burke

 

 

510LRYxCFTL

 

A new murder case with ties to a convicted serial killer leads Detective Ellie Hatcher into a twisting investigation with explosive and deadly results in this superb mystery from the “terrific web spinner” (Entertainment Weekly) Alafair Burke.

***

Can I count on these books to help me chase away the blues, and remind me that my family isn’t the most dysfunctional one out there?  LOL

What are your thoughts today, on this “Blue” Monday?

***