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The Done Thing

 

By:  Tracy Manaster 

ISBN: 9781507204894

Publisher: Gallery Books 

Publication Date:  12/5/2017 

Format: Paperback 

My Rating:  3 Stars (ARC) 

In the tradition of Olive Kitteridge and The Woman Upstairs, this “deeply human and morally saturated novel” (Library Journal, starred review) explores how a terrible crime changed one woman’s life forever.

Lida Stearl prides herself on always do the right thing—it has served her well throughout her life as she built a career as an orthodontist, maintained a happy marriage, and raised her young niece after the murder of her sister by her brother-in-law, Clarence Lusk. But now that she’s widowed, retired, and an empty nester, the small perfections of her orderly life aren’t enough to stop her from feeling adrift.

 

Then a well-intentioned birthday gift leads her to discover that Clarence, on death row for his crime, is seeking pen pals from the outside as he prepares for his final appeal. For the first time in her life, Lida crosses a line—she begins to write him, pretending to be a naïve, flirtatious twenty-three year old, in an effort to seek retribution. As letters pass steadily between Lida and Clarence, her obsession with revenge unfolds and she begins to question her morality.

The Done Thing is an utterly memorable and engrossing exploration of forgiveness, loyalty, and justice, and how a tragic event can suddenly change a life’s course.

 

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My Review

 

A violent crime from years ago becomes front and center for Tracy Manaster’s characters in THE DONE THING  – a tragic event changes the course of lives and nothing will ever be the same. How far will one woman go?

 

Highly-charged, emotional, and frustrating at times. 

 

From obsession, hatred, and revenge to an attempt at forgiveness and acceptance. One life-altering event catapults a family into turmoil, revealing secrets that may leave them fractured forever.

 

For eighteen years and four appeals, Lida had waited. Each April she had petitioned. She despised the man, Clarence who had been responsible for putting her sister, Barbra in the ground. Clarence was the husband of Barbra and father of Pamela. 

 

Barbra had left her daughter Pamela behind. Lida had raised Pam. Childless, she and Frank could not have children, and about the time their adoption came through, they had Pam to raise. Before they took custody he girl had spent exactly one weekend in her care. 

 

Prior to her retirement at sixty, Lida was a successful orthodontist. Now Frank was gone, dead . . . and Pam was grown with a life of her own. Married and expecting. 

 

Lida now has more time on her hands to obsess and scheme. She is bitter. She is angry. She wants Clarence to die. To suffer. “Clarence lingered, unshakable as the phantom weight a watch leaves on a naked wrist.”

 

She knew that once he died she could find new thoughts. She would love to serve him his last meal. 

 

Barbra’s lover. Lawrence Richard Ring. Next Barbra fell, split apart by four bullets. Clarence had picked up Pamela and lied about a dentist appointment. Pamela was in the car. Clarence had been granted three letters to Pamela a year. 

 

Presently, Lida has turned sixty-three and Pamela has purchased her a new computer. She comes up with a plan. She wants revenge. She discovers Clarence Lusk. Be a Penfriend. It’s the Write Thing. Be a Candle to Those in Darkness. 

 

The Prison in Arizona. Inmate 58344. He wants a pen pal. She would change her name and set up a post office. She would be Maisie. Lida crosses a line and begins to write to Clarence. Pretending to be a flirty twenty-three-year-old, in an effort to attain retribution.

 

Will Clarence open up to her if he thinks she is someone else? Or will he be smart enough to catch her deception? Will she lose control of the situation?

 

What is Pam thinking or feeling? Does Lida consider her actionsLida thinks she is always rushing to get married, hoping the baby would be born—before the needle. The death of her father. 

 

The author captures every evil thought of this angry, manipulative, and lonely woman. The strained relationship between aunt and niece. Lida is so consumed by revenge has she forgotten the family in front of her. She dwells on everything bad in her life and chooses to believe this one man is at fault and to blame. 

 

The letters between Clarence and Lida delve deep into the human emotions, and how deep the scars run after a tragedy that will forever change lives. How after years it begins to consume her. 

 

Scene (Chapter 35) was well done and quite comical. The phone call and banter between the two. The claws come out. 

 

The description summary from the publisher was right on – fans of Elizabeth Strout’s, Olive Kitteridge — quite similar to the mood of darkness, pain, and gloom. The internal war waging within. Human imperfections and family dynamics. Learning to let go and free oneself of anger. 

 

However, the writing is well-crafted as the author explores the complex minds of humans in the midst of tragedy and the overwhelming need for justice. The consequences of this obsession are at the heart of THE DONE THING

 

After reading three books in a row back to back, The Last Suppers (also death row), What Remains True ( the aftermath of a boy dying), and now THE DONE THING. Something a bit lighter with humor is in order. 

 

All three family dramas are well-written books which teeter on literary fiction; however, they are deep, dark, and sad. This is the type of book you may want to mix in among a few upbeat ones.

 

A special thank you to Gallery Books and NetGalley for an advanced reading copy. 

 

JDCMustReadBooks

 

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Advance Praise

 

 

"The Portlander's delivery is always laced with smart and sly subtleties. Manaster draws magnetically, without a load of extras, and her audience is likely to sneak away only to fill a drink for her, to ensure she doesn t stop telling her story." --The Register-Guard"

 

"Manaster (You Could Be Home by Now) has written a deeply human and morally saturated novel, with captivating language. Don t miss this sympathetic examination of how a tragic incident can irrevocably change a life's course." --Library Journal, Starred Review

 

"The Done Thing is a masterful example of what fiction can be. The writing is sharp and evocative, tenderly depicting a sister's grief-born obsession. Clarence is an unrepentant villain, so different from typical death penalty-themed novels. Lida is wounded and bitter, tender and loving, and completely lost in the past. But justice, compassion and forgiveness are the real main characters of this book, and readers will know them better by the story's end." --The Deseret News

 

"In this engrossing story about the effects that vengeance can have on love, Manaster refuses to take the happy, easy way out, instead leaving her strikingly relatable characters with just enough room to breathe." --Publishers Weekly 

 

 

 

 

About the Author 

 

 

Tracy Manaster is a graduate of Wesleyan University and The Iowa Writers’ Workshop. She is the author of the novels You Could Be Home By Now and The Done Thing. Tracy lives in Portland, OR with her husband and twin daughters.

Her earliest ambition was to be a balloon seller in Central Park, followed by dreams of being a whitewater guide on the Green River, and then an archaeologist; now, she writes. Her family plays an elaborate, ritualized card game involving maracas, she will share the secret to a perfect blueberry pie with anyone who asks, and she spends way too much time trying to map a road trip that hits each National Park during its most beautiful season.  Read More ​

Represented by Ayesha Pande at Pande Literary.

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