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  • Writer's pictureJudith D Collins



ISBN: 9780399176272

Publisher: Penguin

Publication Date: 6/7/2016

Format: Other

My Rating: 4 Stars

When Char Hawthorne's husband dies unexpectedly, she is left questioning everything she once knew to be true: from the cozy small town life they built together to her relationship with her stepdaughter, who is suddenly not bound to Char in any real way. Untethered explores what bonds truly form a family and how, sometimes, love knows no bounds.

Char Hawthorn has a great life. A freelance editor and college professor married to a wonderful man, and stepmother to a happy, spirited fifteen-year-old daughter in Mount Pleasant, Michigan, she loves her family and the joyful rhythms of work and parenting. But when her husband, Bradley, is killed in a car accident, the “step” in Char’s title suddenly matters a great deal. In the eyes of the law, the “mother” title, and all the rights to daughter Allie, belong to Lindy, Allie’s self-absorbed biological mother, who wants the girl to move to her home in California.

Allie begins to struggle in school and tensions mount between her and Char, though her connection to young Morgan Crew, a ten-year-old girl Allie’s tutored since the fall, seems to keep her grounded. Sadly, Morgan, who was adopted out of foster care after a neglect-filled early childhood, engages in self-harm, making her adoptive parents anxious.

When Morgan disappears, Allie is distraught, and then takes matters into her own hands, taking the family car to Ohio to rescue Morgan, who has been given away to strangers—“rehomed” by her desperate adoptive parents, who feared for their special-needs son. Though Char manages to track the girls down, she must face an irate Lindy, a future without Allie, and the question of Morgan, caught in a terrible crack in the system.

My Review

A special thank you to Penguin and NetGalley for an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

Julie Lawson Timmer returns following her heart-wrenching debut, Five Days Left, landing on my Top 30 Books of 2014,with UNTETHERED -- an emotional domestic suspense of blended families and the powerful ties that bind. Char Hawthorn, had a great life. A freelance editor, happily married to a college professor, Bradley and stepmother to his Allie, a fifteen-year-old in Mount Pleasant, Michigan. However, when her perfectionist husband dies suddenly in a car accident, she is left to pick up the pieces and contend with Allie’s biological mother, Lindy. The threat she may be separated from her step-daughter with a pending move to California. Her step-mom is not mother quality. In the meantime, there is another storyline creating tensions. Allie’s connection to Morgan, a ten-year-old-girl she has been tutoring—a troubled girl caught up in foster care, now adopted, who self-harms. Char attempts to hold it all together throughout the drama. There are cracks and fissures, with non-traditional family units; grief, struggles, emotions, relationships, balancing, defining roles, failings, trials, and those caught in the middle and crossfires. From emotionally abused children, motherhood, step-parenting, frustrations and resentments-- a suspenseful exploration of the human psyche, its complexities, and the resilience of family, with a domestic psychological literary twist. Timmer once again explores what makes a family means, and the outcome when bonds are tested.

As a Mom (2 sons) and Stepmom (3 sons) a realistic tale of the intense ongoing challenges of blended families.

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About the Author

Julie Lawson Timmer grew up in Stratford, Ontario, Canada. She lives in Ann Arbor, Michigan with her husband, their four teenage children and two rescued dogs. By turns, she is a writer, lawyer, mom/stepmom, and dreadful cook.

FIVE DAYS LEFT (Putnam 2014) is her first novel. Her second book, UNTETHERED, will be published by Putnam in 2016. Website






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