First Fiction Friday: Untethered

In her debut novel Untethered, Ruth Rakoff offers a heart-wrenching look into the relationship between two sisters as they enter their adulthoods. Read more about it (and which emotionally devastating novel it brings to mind) in our feature below.

The cover of Untethered by Ruth Rakoff.


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First Fiction Friday
The cover of Untethered by Ruth Rakoff, showing an orange-yellow rose shedding its petals.


Untethered (Cormorant Books, 2023)


Ruth Rakoff is a writer and director of a non-profit organization with a Bachelors of Arts in English Literature from the University of Toronto. She is grateful for the privilege of writing and making art. Born in Montreal, Rakoff published her first book, a memoir titled When My World Was Very Small, in 2010. Rakoff weaves personal experience into fictional characters and narratives in Untethered, her first novel. She lives in Toronto, Ontario.

Why you need to read this now:

Untethered is an emotional, heart-wrenching story that explores the complex relationship and journey of two sisters with immense compassion, intricacy and depth. Ruth Rakoff’s writing is especially striking because she manages to cultivate narratives that are both unique in their deep specificity, but simultaneously thematically universal in its exploration of family relationships and life as a sum of many parts. Behind the backdrop of history, religion, and mental health — Untethered is ultimately a moving story of two sisters navigating their tangled and powerful bond.

On the surface, Untethered offers a fast-paced and unputdownable story that showcases Ruth’s characteristic eye to detail and comprehensive scene-setting. Although those elements enhance the reading experience, the novel clearly highlights the inevitability of Ruth’s turn towards fiction; each of her characters are written with a level of nuance and care you would expect from a seasoned novelist. Untethered could be the first in a storied career of fiction-writing acclaimed for its eloquent style and richness in sketching its characters. Petal, our protagonist — is an intelligent, responsible young woman who has successfully completed her PhD; she also battles depression and struggles to come to terms with her familial trauma. Petal’s sister, Rose, appears to be her foil with her upbeat nature and impulsive spirit. But her spontaneity leads her to a life of orthodoxy. Untethered repeatedly challenges its readers’ and characters’ assumptions, ultimately grounding a narrative about the differences between the two sisters in their powerful shared history that leave their identities, lives, and stories intertwined.

Untethered promises a tear-jerking story for its audience as it follows Rose and Petal, but it also uncovers the judgements, hostilities, and hopes many of us tie to religion and faith. As readers, we’re privy to Petal’s navigation of her twin sister’s orthodox life — and are pushed to question the assumptions we often make about faith, but also about those we love.

X + Y

Untethered is what you get when the narrative structure (and emotional heart) of A Little Life meets the sororal relationship of The Vanishing Half.

A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara and The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett equals Untethered by Ruth Rakoff.

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