A tragedy brings a young boy into the home of a "perfect" family--one whose dark secrets begin closing in, until a horrifying moment changes everything.
Tommie Ware’s life is turned upside down the summer of 1958, just after his eleventh birthday. When his beloved aunt—the woman who raised him—doesn’t return after her shift as a night nurse and is later found murdered, there is only one place left for Tommie to go: “home” to the mother who handed him over the day he was born.
All is not as it seems behind the hedgerow surrounding the lavish Henneberry estate where Tommie’s mother, Esther, works as live-in housekeeper. Her employers have agreed he can stay until she “sorts things out,” but as she's at the family’s beck and call around the clock, Tommie is mostly left on his own to navigate the grounds, the massive house, and the twisted family inside.
Soon he is enmeshed in the oppressive attentions of matriarch Muriel, who is often heavily medicated, and of fifteen-year-old Martin, who treats Tommie sometimes like a kid brother, sometimes like a pawn in a confusing game. While Dr. Henneberry mostly ignores Tommie, he also seems eager for him to be gone. Then there’s the elderly neighbour, who may know more about the family's past than anyone else will say.
By summer's end, the secrets and games tighten around Tommie and his mother, until a horrific crime is discovered and we are faced with an unthinkable question: could an eleven-year-old boy really have committed cold-blooded murder?
About the author
Nicole grew up in Upper Gullies, Newfoundland, with her five siblings and parents, John and Nancy Lundrigan. She attended Queen Elizabeth Regional High School in nearby Foxtrap. During her final year at QERHS, she enjoyed a semester of school in Amiens, France where she lived with a Baron and Baroness in the Chateau de Prouzel.
After high school, Nicole moved to Fredericton, and earned a BSc from the University of New Brunswick. The summer after graduation, she resided in the small community of Morawhanna, Guyana, where she helped to rebuild a schoolhouse, volunteered with a doctor bringing healthcare to remote villages, and assisted in a sea turtle conservation program on Shell Beach. Upon returning to Canada, Nicole attended Saint Mary’s University (Halifax) and received a BA (honours) in anthropology. During her time in Halifax, she worked on an archaeological dig which involved the removal and analysis of skeletal remains beneath the Little Dutch Church. In 1996, she moved to Ontario, and completed an MSc from the University of Toronto with a focus on physical anthropology. Her main area of interest was understanding the conditions affecting the degradation of DNA in postmortem skeletal remains.
Shortly after graduation, she began freelance writing and her work has appeared in a variety of publications, including Reader’s Digest, Mothering: The Natural Family Living Magazine, Law and Order: Police Management, and the Halifax Daily Herald. She is the author of four novels: Unraveling Arva, Thaw, The Seary Line, and Glass Boys. Her literary fiction has been selected as a top ten pick by Canada’s national newspaper the Globe and Mail, was long-listed for the Relit Award, and given honourable mention for the Sunburst Award.
She resides in Ontario with her husband and three children.
One of CBC Books' Fiction Books to Watch for in Spring 2022
#1 LoanStars Pick for April 2022
“In Nicole Lundrigan’s An Unthinkable Thing we meet 11-year-old Tommie Ware, whose life is forever changed by the dark secrets of the wealthy family his estranged mother works for. Gothic horror meets literary suspense, this novel showcases Lundrigan’s impressive talent for crafting a story that is propulsive yet measured, never giving up its mysteries too easily. Flawlessly captivating, this is the book I’ve been waiting to read all year.”
—Karma Brown, # 1 national bestselling author of Recipe for a Perfect Wife
“From the enticing first pages to the shocking last lines (don’t peek!), Nicole Lundrigan’s An Unthinkable Thing explores the trauma of loneliness and the power of belonging, through the eyes of a tender, unforgettable young narrator. You’ll be deeply moved by this thoughtful and atmospheric page-turner.”
—Ashley Audrain, #1 national bestselling author of The Push
“In An Unthinkable Thing, Nicole Lundrigan goes deep behind the glittering curtain of a perfect family, skillfully revealing their darkest secrets one shocking layer at a time. Expertly paced, with a voice that’s both tender and innocent, this twisted suspense story’s jaw-dropping events kept me glued to the pages until the ultimate satisfying surprise. A must read.”
—Hannah Mary McKinnon, internationally bestselling author of You Will Remember Me
“A magnificent example of all the elements of fine fiction—an engaging narrative voice, a profound evocation of time and place, a complex braiding of plot lines—converging to create the perfect tale. Add to this enticing mix a deeply compelling mystery that doesn’t wholly reveal itself until the final page, and what more could any reader ask for? If I were a judge on the Edgar Committee for Best Novel, this story would be at the top of my short list.”
—William Kent Krueger, New York Times bestselling author of This Tender Land
“I read An Unthinkable Thing with my heart in my throat. Nicole Lundrigan masterfully sets the stage with a nostalgic late-1950s backdrop, then ratchets up the tension as she slowly reveals that nothing is quite what it seems. This slow burn mystery builds to an inferno that will keep readers riveted until the final, satisfying page. Five enthusiastic stars!”
—Nicole Baart, bestselling author of Everything We Didn’t Say
“A superb read about helplessness, power, wealth, honesty, and truth—nightmarishly compelling.”
—Booklist (starred review)