BookBrowse Reviews Tethered by Amy Mackinnon

Summary |  Excerpt |  Reviews |  Beyond the book |  Readalikes |  Genres & Themes |  Author Bio

Tethered

A Novel

by Amy Mackinnon

Tethered by Amy Mackinnon
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

  • First Published:
    Aug 2008, 272 pages
    Paperback:
    Aug 2009, 272 pages

  • Rate this book


Book Reviewed by:
Donna Chavez

Buy This Book

About this Book

Reviews

BookBrowse:


With her stupendous prose and intricate characterizations MacKinnon has penned a winner

Tethered is the first book in recent memory that I absolutely could not read fast enough to see how it comes out. The book is deceptive. Is it a mystery? Is it a literary novel? At first it seems to be a rather interesting, if uncomplicated, story about a young woman, Clara Marsh, who works in a funeral home as an undertaker; assistant to the funeral director, Linus Bartholomew. She's had a rather difficult life – orphaned at an early age then raised by an overly strict Bible-thumping grandmother – thus she is pretty much a loner. So when she encounters a little girl called Trecie in one of the mourning rooms I was expecting a story about how Clara begins to relate to the youngster and eventually overcomes her inability to connect with others. Boy was I wrong.

The first thing that becomes abundantly clear is just how damaged Clara is. She is so much more than simply a person who keeps to herself. This is a woman who has perfected the art of isolation to the extent that she is unable to even bring herself to hug or return the affection of Linus and his wife Alma who look upon her as their own daughter. Indeed, far from identifying with Trecie, Clara has bonded with a dead girl -- an unidentified child who was found brutally murdered several years ago and whose grave she visits regularly. She is unsympathetically untouched by the mystery surrounding that child's death although it is the primary focus of police detective Mike Sullivan and the rest of the community. In so many ways she seems perfectly suited to the downstairs/backroom nature of her profession. When called upon to pick up a body Clara wants nothing to do with the family, desiring only to dispatch the rather grim and certainly gruesome clinical responsibilities of her job with as little live human contact as possible.

On the other hand, in an apparent anomaly, in her spare time Clara toils in the magnificent greenhouse that is attached to her home. A place of indescribable beauty, it is a lush refuge, a vibrant sanctuary where she cultivates row upon row of thriving flowers. She knows each flower by name and by its meaning – Shasta daisies/innocence, chrysanthemums/cheerfulness, etc. – and thoughtfully selects flowers appropriately suited to the deceased, then discreetly tucks a bouquet in each casket. What's more, as Trecie makes herself more of a presence in Clara's life – both Clara and Trecie suffer from the same mental illness: trichotillomania (an irresistible urge to pull out their hair) -- she becomes torn between remaining aloof from others and trying to intervene in this troubled child's life. Does she remain tethered to and by her solitude or does she allow herself to walk among and interact with others? Truly, in Clara, MacKinnon has woven a character so intricate and complex, yet the bits and pieces we glean about her past offer a plausible foundation for her "quirks."

However, I kept wondering throughout if Clara's assessment of the world around her was to be trusted. Is she sufficiently disconnected from the real world that it would render her narration faulty? Or is she, like Humbert Humbert in Nabokov's Lolita, an unreliable narrator putting so much of her own self-serving slant on events that the reader never really sees the facts? This, as much as anything, held my interest because MacKinnon does a stand up job of casting just enough doubt about Clara's mental soundness via her interaction with the other characters that it kept me guessing as to what was really going on. I still can't say whether Tethered should be categorized as a mystery or a literary novel but what I do know is that with her stupendous prose and intricate characterizations MacKinnon has penned a winner.

First Impressions: Nineteen BookBrowse members reviewed this book, rating it 4.5 on a 5 point scale - one of the top rated books reviewed to date. Read the reviews.

Reviewed by Donna Chavez

This review was originally published in August 2008, and has been updated for the August 2009 paperback release. Click here to go to this issue.



This review is available to non-members for a limited time. For full access become a member today.
Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

One-Month Free Membership

Discover your next great read here

Join Today!

Editor's Choice


Book Discussion
Book Jacket
The Sellout
by Paul Beatty

The first book by an American author to win the prestigious Man Booker Prize.

About the book
Join the discussion!

First Impressions

  • Book Jacket

    No One Is Coming to Save Us
    by Stephanie Powell Watts

    One of Entertainment Weekly, Nylon and Elle's most anticipated books of 2017.
    Reader Reviews

  • Book Jacket

    Manderley Forever
    by Tatiana de Rosnay

    Bestselling author Tatiana de Rosnay pays homage to Daphne du Maurier.
    Reader Reviews

Who Said...

The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place

Click Here to find out who said this, as well as discovering other famous literary quotes!

Word Play

Solve this clue:

Y S M B, I'll S Y

and be entered to win..

Books that     
entertain,
     engage

 & enlighten

Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends books that we believe to be best in class. Books that will whisk you to faraway places and times, that will expand your mind and challenge you -- the kinds of books you just can't wait to tell your friends about.

 
Modal popup -