Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Untethered by Julie Lawson Timmer

Thank you to GoodReads.com and Putnam Books for the advance reading copy of this book. This is the second book by Julie Lawson Timmer and I thoroughly loved Five Days Left.
Untethered by Julie Lawson Timmer starts at the funeral of her husband and I was hooked right away. After the sudden death of her husband, Char struggles with the care and custody of her teen step-daughter Allie. Complicating matters is Allie’s mother Lindy, who exercises her biological parental rights when her schedule allows. 

Through the book, I alternated between being frustrated by Char’s lack of nerve to basically parent her stepdaughter and refusal to see giant red flags of her younger friend Morgan’s situation and empathizing with a woman whose experienced a great loss of her husband, who seemed to be the foundation of their family.
I say I empathize because I too have lost close family members, namely, both of my parents at different times, all before I turned 25. Looking back, I remember how it felt to wade through the fog of profound grief and the struggle to figure out how to live without either of them in my life. I empathized that she missed red flags and cues from both Allie and Morgan. I, too missed colossal red flags while dating and being married to my first husband, who I met just months after my mom died. My perceptions within my immediate world was so different than those of my family and friends. Looking back, I still struggle with the mistakes I made, and I have to keep reminding myself that I was such a different person back then.  I’m fortunate and grateful that I got the professional help I needed to get through it. Char could barely deal with her own grief, and Allie was not dealing with hers at all and needed Char to be that parent, that source of security and safety after such a huge loss at such a young age.  I kept wishing those around Allie and Char would step in and be a mirror to their behaviors and show them they had to stick together to get through it all.  While I’ve never had children, nor been married to anyone with children to understand Char’s internal struggle after her husband’s death, I can understand the power of intense grief and how it affected her ability to make any decisions about Allie. 

Overall I was satisfied at how the book ended. Sometimes I felt the book was dragging, and then I reminded myself how time passes so differently after the loss of a close loved one and the world is so different from the way it was “before.” I don’t know if it was intentional by the author or not. What I had a hard time with was believing that the teen-aged daughter did all the acting out in order to try to force Char to be her parent and to tell her that she wanted to be her parent. I felt the acting out was 100% understandable for a teenager whose primary parent suddenly died and felt helpless in the middle of a custody struggle between a caring but struggling stepparent and a self-absorbed and indifferent biological mother.