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The Done Thing



Lida Stearl prides herself on always knowing the most appropriate thing to do in any given situation, confidence that has served her well in building her career as an orthodontist, maintaining a happy marriage, and raising her young niece in the wake of a violent tragedy. But now she’s a widowed, retired, empty-nester and the small perfections of an orderly life are not quite enough to stop her from feeling adrift.​

Then a well-intentioned birthday gift leads to the discovery that Clarence Lusk, on death row for the murder of Lida’s sister, is seeking penpals from the outside as he prepares for his final appeal. And so, for the first time in her life, Lida crosses a line: she begins to write him, pretending to be naïve, twenty-three, and just the slightest bit flirtatious. As letters pass steadily between Lida and Clarence, her preoccupation with his crime and its echoes intensifies, and she finds that crossing one line makes the ones that follow all the more tempting to cross.




“The Done Thing is a wonderfully engrossing novel — the unnerving and vividly-imagined tale of Lida Stearl, a charming widow who maintains her polite exterior although she’s quietly riven by grief and righteous fury. Tracy Manaster has written a novel that beguiles with its characters and its gripping story, but it also provides a rich investigation into what happens when we give space to our terrible little impulses, how these tiny monstrosities can grow and spread beyond our control.”
–Peter Mountford, author of The Dismal Science and A Young Man’s Guide to Late Capitalism


“Lida Stearl is many things: a widow, a parent, a retired orthodontist, a proper St. Louis lady of a certain age, and hell-bent on making her sister’s killer’s final days on earth as unpleasant as possible. What begins as one woman’s obsessive, secret quest for revenge unfolds into a skillfully written exploration of forgiveness, family, loyalty, and justice. Tracy Manaster’s caustic yet tender second novel is a masterpiece."

—Mo Daviau, author of Every Anxious Wave

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