I was so excited to receive Tethered, by Amy MacKinnon as part of Random House’s Read it Forward program. It’s the first book that I received through the program and it’s one that I really, really wanted to read so I was doing the happy dance when I opened up the package. Thank you Random House!
Clara Marsh is an undertaker. She spends her days and nights taking care of the dead. With no family of her own, she settles in with Linus and Alma, funeral directors for the mortuary who not only provide her with a job but also a place to live.
Living where you work provides its own challenges so Clara takes refuge in the cottage garden that is hidden behind her home. There she cares for several varieties of flowers and it’s these same flowers that she lovingly places within the caskets as she prepares for each funeral.
After preparing a body, Clara notices a young girl exploring the funeral home. Unnerved by her presence, Clara confronts her and explains that a funeral home is no place for a child. After talking a bit more to her, Clara learns that her name is Trecie and that Linus lets her visit sometimes.
As the story unfolds, we learn that Trecie is in trouble and in need of help. Clara, having a past of her own to contend with, quickly forges a bond with the child and with the encouragement of Linus, promises to help her. At the time, Clara is not entirely sure what she has gotten herself into, but there is something about the child that disturbs her and it’s obvious that the child is desperate for a friend. As Trecie’s story comes to light, local law enforcement is brought in and they discover a connection between Trecie’s case and another case that was unsolved from a few years back.
When I started this book, I was immediately taken with Clara’s character. I imagine that it takes a special person to care for the dead and as I got deeper into the story, it became obvious to me that Clara was a very complex individual made-up of a lot of layers. I also knew that due to her complexity, her motive for doing things would not be presented to me on a silver platter. I would have to sit and ponder and really dig to figure her out.
With that said, there were quite a few moments where the story took a turn that I was not expecting and left me scratching my head. During these times, I had to take a break from the book, think about it for awhile and then come back to it. This doesn’t mean that I did not enjoy reading the book, it just means that although the story is not a long one (260+ pages), I found I had to break it off into small, manageable pieces in order to digest it properly.
Overall, the story is not what I imagined it to be. I saw it going a lot of different ways, but in the end, I felt satisfied. It was an oddly disturbing book yet not terribly graphic. I guess dealing with dead bodies can’t be all roses and lilacs but MacKinnon did an excellent job of setting the scene. There were many times where I really felt as if I were in that basement with Clara as she worked over a body. Gives me shivers just thinking about it.
In looking at the cover and also the title of the book, I am trying to figure out the significance of the title as it relates to the storyline. If you’ve read it, what do you make of the title? It makes more sense to me now that I have finished the book, but the meaning does not present itself to me in an obvious way. I’d love to hear how you interpret it.
I think this book would be a good pick for a book group as there is a lot to discuss. To read more about Amy MacKinnon and Tethered, click here. Be sure to click on the “About Amy” section and you’ll read how she came upon the idea of this novel.