As a mortician, Clara Marsh prepares the dead for their funerals. But not for the afterlife; she doesn’t believe in God or a heaven. She is alone, except for the owners of the funeral parlor, who try to treat Clara like their own daughter although she still remains aloof. Abused as a child, and suffering from the demons the abuse has left, her world is upset when a small girl, Trecie, comes to play in the funeral home. At first Clara wants to ignore the little girl, and wishes to maintain her solitude. When out on a call to pick up a deceased man, Clara and several detectives come across a kiddie-porn stash, in which Clara recognizes Trecie on the tape. Now Clara must find Trecie again, and try to protect her, in the processes giving up her introverted and isolated existence.
MacKinnon’s writing is incredibly haunting. Clara’s character comes across as incredibly despondent, without ever seeming pathetic. She doesn’t want anyone to feel sorry for her, she really doesn’t want anyone to notice her at all, but the reader empathesizes anyways. She is honest and frank, she knows how she wants to live and what she believes. Tethered’s plot is entirely unconventional. It’s simplicity is powerful. I was a little disappointed in the ending, however. I thought it was being tied up together too predictably, that Clara was going to learn some lesson about faith or redemption that would have been too trite for a novel that was so original up to this point. But, the end didn’t up exactly where I thought it would (although close), retaining some of its mystery and uniqueness. An excellent book for those not afraid of something dark!