First-time novelist Judy Hudson’s “Tethered to Shadows: The Healing Journey of Six” is the story of Dana and the five women who join her group therapy sessions. Over a nine-month period, the six women learn about each other and themselves as they cope with issues from depression to death to bipolar disorder — and, it turns out, much more.
The book is split into chapters in which the narrative of each woman is intermingled with descriptions of some of the weekly therapy sessions. Hudson does a nice job of describing the feelings of those entering into a counseling situation for the first time, and this can be useful for those considering therapy. Her past work as a clinical social worker shines through in the representation of the counselor/patient relationship and those that manifest between the group members. She works hard to make each woman’s story unique, incorporating a variety of issues from family estrangement to addiction to sexual assault.
The use of the group therapy setting in particular allows the reader to see the progress that can be made when the women share their own struggles and successes with each other. The transformation that each woman undergoes is accompanied by changes, for better and worse, in their own familial and romantic relationships.
Hudson’s portrayal of life in Alaska — where the Southwest Idaho native and resident once lived — adds a great flavor to the story. Several characters enjoy spending time on the water fishing and communing with nature. Another character is an archaeologist with the U.S. Forest Service, responsible for working with antiquities and the native cultures they belong to. Mentions of the local Tlingit and Haida communities are brief, with one character in the beginning stage of exploring her heritage. It would have been interesting to delve into this aspect of the story more deeply but is likely left out to focus on the traumas the women are facing.
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“Tethered to Shadows” demonstrates the power of healing in a group counseling setting but doesn’t promise the characters a perfect future. Each still has work to do, which feels like a realistic acknowledgment of human nature and an appropriate end to the first novel in a proposed series.
Megan Davis is a librarian and assistant professor at Albertsons Library at Boise State University.
Tethered to Shadows: The Healing Journey of Six
By Judy Hudson (Southwest Idaho)