The Bookworm

“Untethered: A Novel” by Julie Lawson Timmer (Putnam), $26, 337 pages

Oh, the ties that bind.

Be they familial, friendly or formal, the relationships you’ve made in your lifetime have given you many interesting days filled with ups and down. But, really, would you ever have it any other way? Of course not, unless, as in the new novel “Untethered” by Julie Lawson Timmer, one of those ties becomes frayed.

Char Hawthorne hadn’t been looking for a husband.

She was excited to be living in Washington, D.C., and working a job she loved; dating wasn’t even on her radar, until she met Bradley. He lived in Michigan, a divorced geek with a pre-teen daughter. Though Char wasn’t looking for a husband, it didn’t take many trips north for her to fall in love with man and child.

And now Bradley was gone, the victim of a car accident on a winter’s night.

Grieving aside, there was much to do, plans to finalize, decisions to make, loose ends to tie. There had been times over the past five years, for example, when they’d discussed Char formally adopting Allie, Bradley’s daughter, but the conversation usually ended without action, something Char deeply regretted. Once a wife and stepmother, she was now neither.

That meant she had no rights, when it came to Allie. And Allie’s mother, Lindy, seemed to suddenly want her daughter with her in California .

Or did she? Lindy hadn’t seen much of Allie while Char was in the picture; she didn’t call much, and she seemed relieved not to have to be responsible for a now-15-year-old girl. Even though Allie was a great kid, Lindy didn’t seem to have time for motherhood.

That hurt Allie a lot, Char knew. She knew it because Allie suddenly went from perfect kid to terrible teen in a few days. She knew it because of the look on Allie’s face when her mother called.

But when Allie took another family’s matters into her own hands by running away, Char knew that someone had to step up as a parent, fast.

It’s so, so easy to ease into a novel by Timmer.

You know by the end of the first page that you’re in for a great story, one that’s rich in detail, plot and character development.

“Untethered” won’t disappoint you on any of those fronts. Timmer piles on plenty of details that give readers better, more vivid imagery. Characters are well-defined but unpredictable, just as they should be.

As for plot, Timmer says in her afterword that one of the threads in this book is something that really happens in this country and, while it might be somewhat far-fetched at times and maybe a bit too pat in this story, I can’t imagine being happier with any other ending, or being half as satisfied.

This is a first-rate book group novel, or you can enjoy it in a hammock, an airport or an office lunchroom. Bring a few tissues, but don’t miss it. Without “Untethered,” you’ll be in a real bind.

Terri Schlichenmeyer has been reading since she was 3, and she never goes anywhere without a book. She lives on a hill in Wisconsin with two dogs and 11,000 books.

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