When I was finished excitedly describing the overall plot of The Done Thing, by Tracy Manaster, to my husband, he said, “It sounds like Russian nesting dolls.”
It’s an apt assessment. Brilliantly, Manaster presents the complex protagonist, Lida Stearl, in as organized a way as the methodical Lida herself may have done. Through secret letters written to her sister’s killer, retired orthodontist Lida pretends to be someone she’s not, and through doing so, discovers how far outside herself one can tumble when motivated by the pain of lost love. Through his return letters, we learn the opposite about the imprisoned Clarence: just how human one can be after having lost his humanity.
The really excellent, and non-obvious, thing about The Done Thing, though, is that the entire thing is a letter. Even when we’re not reading their emotionally charged pen-pal letters, Lida is narrating to Clarence. She lives her life to his imagined audience, even though, ultimately, it is she who craves the day she will get to be the audience to his final moments through the State of Arizona’s formal viewing system.
It is a gripping and compelling read, giving an intelligent lens to what can happen when we allow emotion to control impulse, in addition to how far, and how deeply, these actions can cut those caught in our proximity.
Buy The Done Thing, published by Tyrus Books here.
Tracy Manaster is a graduate of Wesleyan University and the Iowa Writers' Workshop. She is the author of the novel You Could Be Home By Now. Tracy lives in Portland, OR, with her husband and twin daughters.
Review by Brandi Dawn Cornelius.