3 out of 4 stars
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Did you ever play tetherball at recess in elementary school? I remember smacking that ball again and again as it spun around the pole, restricted in its trajectory by the length of its rope. Like that ball, hopelessly bound to the pole, is how Lunda Rose felt about her life in the novel Tethered to Wanting by Constance Huddleston Anderson. The setting is the Tennessee mountains in the 1960’s, and Lunda Rose is one of four children in a dysfunctional home where Joe Halverston (her father) was given to unpredictable outbursts of rage and rampaging. This novel gives an accounting of Lunda Rose’s life at age 15, the year she identifies as when she was catapulted to adulthood.
Lunda Rose and her sister, Ruby Grace, marked time not on a calendar or according to a clock, but according to the houses that they lived in. They were accustomed to sleeping in their clothes to be ready to arise in the middle of the night and grab their five essential belongings to load up in the car and drive to a new temporary home. Fear dominated their family. Joe made neon signs for a living, which required him to travel often. But where did he go, and why did he stay away for weeks or months at a time? When he returned, would he be angry?
Using simple, easy to understand language, Ms. Anderson paints a vivid picture, especially regarding emotions. For example, the fear is palpable in the opening scene as Lunda Rose cowers under a desk with her sister and cousin, hiding from the wrath of her father. I often found my heart pounding as I experienced fear and anxiety along with the characters. To cope with her chaotic circumstances, Mother found solace in ironing. At least her clothes and curtains could be orderly. Similarly, Grandmother sought control by cleaning and scrubbing things until they fell apart. Ms. Anderson took me on a rollercoaster of fear, anger, anxiety and grief along with her characters.
Though complex and packed with meaning, the novel’s most significant theme revolves around the keeping of secrets. Secrets are a primary source of problems for the Halverston family. Thought to be a source of power, secrets weaken relationships by eroding trust and giving birth to suspicion. They also require hard work to protect. Several characters in the novel harbor secrets, including Joe, Helen (Mother), and Grandmother. Abandonment, fear, identity, and grief are secondary themes prominent in the novel.
I was exposed to new thoughts and ideas through the reading of this novel. I learned about the dangers of coal mining, the art of neon glass forming, the culture of the Cherokee, and even the mythology of Janus. Among those, my favorite aspect of this novel was the symbolism found in the art of making neon signs. The reader gets a glimpse of a different side of Joe as he works to create neon signs. He is portrayed momentarily as a creator, rather than a destroyer, of beauty. Even his mistakes were magnificent, as he redeemed them by forming roses or other beautiful shapes. I find this to be symbolic of life. Even though life takes us on a different path than we anticipated, the result can still be both beautiful and treasured.
I cannot help but to compare this book with Ironbark Hill by Jennie Linanne. Both are coming-of-age stories of teenage girls in dysfunctional families, but the authors have completely different writing styles. Where Jennie Linanne majors on flowery, descriptive language, Constance Anderson employs more simple words to lead the reader on an emotional journey.
There were a few difficulties I experienced that are worth mentioning. Occasionally, Lunda Rose’s story was delivered in the form of a flashback. Sometimes I was unclear if the story was unfolding in the past or the present. In addition, some thoughts were shown in quotation marks. Perhaps the use of italics for thoughts would set them apart from dialogue in quotation marks. There were some problems with the formatting of the kindle edition that I received, particularly with paragraph indentation. In addition, I encountered quite a few errors in punctuation such as missing/extra commas or quotation marks or wrong word forms. Even though I didn’t really want to like this book due to its abusive content, I found that it really made an impression on me. Therefore, I award 3 out of 4 stars to Tethered to Wanting. I would recommend it to anyone who enjoys coming-of-age stories or stories of real life struggles. I must warn that some of the abuse scenes are graphic, so those who have a sensitivity to abuse may want to stay away.
Tethered to Wanting
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