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18 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Cut Above
My favorite books tend to be the ones that address real human emotion; nothing fluffy about human emotion. And Tethered doesn't pretend that there is. The funeral home employee, Clara, is so real and just dead on (no pun intended!) to any real person who has endured anything other than a starlet's life. All of Mackinnon's characters are real people, her talent lies in...
Published on August 12, 2008 by Beach Reader

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6 of 9 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Flowers
Amy MacKinnon's debut novel, Tethered, is captivating and haunting. Protagonist Clara Marsh is a mortician, leading an isolated life in a small house on the same property as the funeral home run by her boss, who lives with his wife above the viewing rooms. Clara remodeled her house to add a greenhouse, hidden from view, her secret garden. After she prepares a body, she...
Published on January 3, 2009 by Stephen T. Hopkins


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18 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Cut Above, August 12, 2008
This review is from: Tethered: A Novel (Hardcover)
My favorite books tend to be the ones that address real human emotion; nothing fluffy about human emotion. And Tethered doesn't pretend that there is. The funeral home employee, Clara, is so real and just dead on (no pun intended!) to any real person who has endured anything other than a starlet's life. All of Mackinnon's characters are real people, her talent lies in never pandering to literary stereotypes or the demand for a perfect heroine with "cute" and easily overcome flaws. As Clara's life, past and present, unfolds around the mystery of Precious Doe's short life and heartbreaking death I found myself identifying MUCH more than I would have expected with her isolation and desire to simply move on and have an easy, if lonely, life, and then her ultimate struggle to overcome those all-too-human tendencies.

Book clubs will have much to discuss with themes of solitude, the limits of memory, retribution and redemption. Highly recommended.
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A great debut mystery, August 12, 2008
By 
John Elder Robison (Massachusetts, USA) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Tethered: A Novel (Hardcover)
I was privileged to read a review copy of Amy's novel a few weeks ago. Tethered is a well-crafted story that will leave you thinking, "That could be happening right here in my city." Nothing is as it seems, and you meet a compassionate and remarkable heroine in the strangest place - the embalming room of a funeral home.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An amazing debut - read it in one day, October 17, 2008
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This review is from: Tethered: A Novel (Hardcover)
Tethered is not a read for everyone. Yet, it is, just told a little differently.
Clara Marsh hasn't had a happy life. She now lives peacefully among the dead - preparing the dead for funerals at a funeral parlor. Her boss and his wife love her as a daughter, but Clara can't seem to reach out and join humanity.
Here comes a little girl, Trecie, who plays and hangs out at the funeral parlor. Something is strangely familiar about the girl - whether Trecie reminds Clara of herself as a child, or of a victim of murder she prepared for burial a few years before. Clara and Trecie form a kind of friendship. A local cop, Mike, whom Clara has a mutual attraction with also is in the periphery of Clara's life.
I read this book in one day. It touched chords in me. Maybe weird curiosity how one prepares the dead - maybe the brilliant way MacKinnon brings her characters to life - you feel their pain, their hopes, the loneliness...
It brought to mind when I was a kid in college taking an art appreciation course - my prof had the class go to an exhibit of a Polish artist. The paintings were so stark it hit you and made a lasting impression. It is this feeling I get from Tethered.
I must say that the cover was what drew me initially to this book. You are caught between curiosity and empathy and you want to see what this book is about.
A brilliant debut. MacKinnon's style is like one of the Mozart works Clara uses to keep her company while she performs this service for the dead - it is heartfelt, captivating, and oh so amazing.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Haunting, edgy, beautiful, February 18, 2009
This review is from: Tethered: A Novel (Hardcover)
This is a captivating story with a wholly original heroine. Haunting, evocative, emotionally intimate and rendered with tenderness and love, the narrative fills the pages with suspense and daring. The author pushes the envelope by exploring regions of shame, guilt, loneliness, detachment, and death (to name a few) in uncommon ways. The protagonist, Clara Marsh, is three-dimensional, flawed, and memorable. Her small gestures speak volumes and her reticence reverberates. Her relationship to the other characters and the compelling story keeps you turning those pages. Clara's profession as an undertaker provides exquisite material as an extended metaphor. Additionally, it is clear that this first-time author did meticulous research for this novel.

The story develops with character, and character development is propelled by the story. It is finely balanced, and getting to the last page was torture because I did not want to let go of Clara. I gave it four stars instead of five because of some predictable aspects of plot/villian that I don't want to go into--I don't like to give spoilers. However, this is still a deeply satisfying novel that will keep you tethered to it from first to last page. And beyond.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Stunnginly Complex Characters in a Raw, Gripping Excellent Novel, September 30, 2009
This review is from: Tethered: A Novel (Hardcover)
This is a highly crafted, well-written, grip your emotions and never let them go kind of book. Found in the mystery section, it actually transcends just one category.

It is raw, gritty and gripping and the heroine is a flawed, fascinatingly in-depth woman. Mackinnon crafted an entire set of complex, unfluffy characters and once I began reading this book, I was compelled to finish it in one sitting.

Clara Marsh is an undertaker who is more comfortable with the dead than the living. Badly bruised and emotionally, physically battered from a childhood none should endure, she looks at the world through eyes that have seen too much and a heart that craves to feel very little.

Her boss and his wife provide a haven of stability, and yet as the book progresses, that relationship also becomes tested and tempest tossed.

Clara's emotions are raw when three years prior, she prepared a burial for a beautiful little girl who was horrifically, brutally murdered and, lacking identity was named Precious Doe. When A small waif (Trecie) is found playing in the funeral home Clara sees the warning signs of a child who is badly abused.

From this point forward, the book takes a twisting, turning dark road as Trecie is somehow connected to Precious Doe. As Clara attempts to help Trecie, memories of her childhood are woven in the tale of pain, betrayal and neglect.

A local policeman Mike, who also has his share of tragedy, is like a bee buzzing, pestering Clara to help uncover the identify and killer of Precious Doe and to sew together the threads and pieces of Trecie and Precious Doe in an attempt to prevent a similar fate.

There is a portrayal of the seedy, underbelly of child pornography, and there are of a cast of town folk characters who are not all they appear to be. This book elicits suspicion and a whirlwind of emotions as it increasingly becomes difficult to discern who to trust.

The ending is unpredictable. While the story line is gripping and heart wrenching, the author did not portray the violence simply for the sake of gore.

Highly recommended for the excellent plot, the crisp writing and the portrayal of a redemptive soul, who despite terrible pain and darkness longs to be free of burden and bask in a ray of some sunshine.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Tethered and Bound....We should all think in flower metaphors., December 9, 2009
This review is from: Tethered: A Novel (Paperback)
Never thought melancholy could be written with such vibrance. There was a tenderness in monotone, each word written with a controlled careful thoughtfulness that gave a real insight into the main character and all she'd survived. Tethered's heroine Clara lives like she works, in a coffin, it takes a little dead girl to awakens some semblance of life within her. An exquisite corpse of characters, MacKinnon held nothing back, it was like she took them as delicate figurines and threw them against the wall shattering them for our appraisal. There's Clara infinitely wounded by her past abuse mirrored by the young mysterious girl, Trecie and her attachment to Clara, and the potential love interest, Detective Mike Sullivan who comes into the story completely broken. All of them shells of former promise, brilliant in their flawedness, come together and heal each other in this wonderful fusion of genres mystery, crime drama, and paranormal that really works in MacKinnon's capable hands. My favorite part, the flowers. I find Tethered like a Calla Lilly for its simplicity, form, and elegance. We should all think in flower metaphors.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A must read!, August 23, 2008
This review is from: Tethered: A Novel (Hardcover)
I loved this book from beginning to end and highly recommend it!

Tethered by Amy MacKinnon is a hypnotic novel, drawing the reader into the story with its first line. The writing is incredible, words are put together in such a beautiful way, it's hard to describe; you just have to experience it yourself. The main character is a mortician named Clara Marsh whose physical and emotional characteristics are described by the author in such detail that I felt I knew her like I would a good friend. (And I came to care about her almost as much.) Amy MacKinnon has created a world where every character and scene is drawn so clearly that the reader's mental picture is complete. The plot is captivating and even after you think you have it "figured out," there is more to be revealed right until the very end.

They say a performer should always leave an audience wanting more; if that is the measuring stick with which to judge all pieces of entertainment, then this book is a winner! I think this book would be great for book clubs because of all the various aspects of the story there are to discuss, such as the characters, the mystery, and the relationships.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Strong writing and human emotions makes this story, August 19, 2008
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This review is from: Tethered: A Novel (Hardcover)
Amy McKinnon's debut novel, Tethered, is a bright yellow sunflower in a dull grey world. A haunting, beautifully written novel takes us into the depths of a mortician's life and the fragility of the human heart.

Clara is used to being alone while she prepares the dead. She doesn't so much as believe in God or a higher purpose, but she has her own way of honoring those she tends. She lights her candles, plays her soothing music and chooses carefully the flowers she will bury with them. She grows her own flowers in her greenhouse, and knows the meaning of all the flowers. Daisies she usually saves for the children as it means innocence.

Clara had a troubled childhood. Her mother, who died when she was young , didn't set the best example. So Clara she goes to live with her grandmother--a God-fearing woman who essentially abuses Clara's psych. Clara is so used to being alone, it's become second nature to try and absorb herself into the woodwork.

She lets no one get close to her-until one day when she finds Trecie, a young girl, hanging around the funeral parlor. Clara thinks nothing of it until a routine body pickup uncovers a stash of child pornography and Clara recognizes Trecie in a video. The ensuing investigation also points to Precious Doe, an unidentified child murdered three years earlier and whose grave Clara secretly often visits. Aided by a sensitive Irish cop, Det. Mike Sullivan, to whom she's attracted, Clara tries to unravel the mystery, even if that means confronting her own unpleasant past.

This novel took me by surprise. So full of human emotion, and vivid writing, you'll be relating to the heroine in some way. I couldn't turn the pages quick enough to get more about Clara and Trecie. I will definitely be looking forward to reading more from this author.

Armchair Interviews says: A new talent who shines as bright as a star. Highly recommended
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6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great read - written with words that flow and follow you even after you put the book down, August 12, 2008
This review is from: Tethered: A Novel (Hardcover)
I ordered this book with no knowledge or spying into the pages beforehand and was engrossed and encouraged by Amy Mckinnons way with words. A story about pain, growth and revelations and with a heroin that might suprise us all. A terrific story written like a pro. Hope to see many more from this new talent.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Hypnotic story, excellent audio, August 29, 2008
This review is from: Tethered: A Novel (Hardcover)
Mackinnon has written a marvelous debut. Her use of language and unexpected imagery is almost hypnotic in its intensity. I did think the plot was fairly easy to figure out, but the storytelling was so beautifully done I didn't mind. I'll definitely be looking for her next novel.

Another note: Rebecca Lowman's narration of the audio is pitch perfect. It can be hard to do kid voices and some vocal talents rely on simply going high pitched and treacly. Not Lowman. Her male and child voices are not affected but easily distinguishable, and she absolutely NAILS Clara's quiet pain. Excellent pairing of voice talent and material.
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Tethered: A Novel
Tethered: A Novel by Amy MacKinnon (Paperback - August 11, 2009)
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