Finished Untethered by Julie Lawson Timmer.  I received a copy from the publisher for review.

Summary (from Goodreads):

When Char Hawthorn’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, college professor, wife and stepmother to a spirited fifteen-year-old daughter, loves her family and the joyful rhythms of work and parenting. But when her husband dies in a car accident, the “step” in Char’s title suddenly matters a great deal. In the eyes of the law, all rights to daughter Allie belong to Lindy, Allie’s self-absorbed biological mother, who wants the girl to move to her home in California.

While Allie begins to struggle in school and tensions mount between her and Char, Allie’s connection to young Morgan, a ten-year-old-girl she tutors, seems to keep her grounded. But then Morgan, who was adopted out of foster care, suddenly disappears, and Char is left to wonder about a possible future without Allie and what to do about Morgan, a child caught up in a terrible crack in the system.”

This was such a fascinating book in the way that it dealt with grief.  I immediately connected with Char and it was easy to feel her panic at the way that her life was disintegrating.  It’s obviously horrible to lose your husband, but she also ran the very real risk of losing Allie, who she views as her daughter but who is not actually related to her (except through marriage). That’s never mattered before but now that Allie’s dad is dead, there’s a very strong possibility that she’s going to have to go live with her mom, who lives in California.

I can’t even imagine how it would feel to go from being part of a family to realizing that there’s a very good chance that you will lose your daughter, too.  “Fragile” doesn’t even begin to cut it.  And yet Char does this amazing job of holding herself and her family together.  She keeps trying to stay strong for Allie and gives her an amazing amount of slack. (Best mother EVER.)

Julie Lawson Timmer has become an author to watch.  Recommended.


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