Nate and Jenny met as associates at the Richmond, Virginia, law firm, Carter, Morgan & Ross. While both were smart and talented lawyers, Jenny was the star. When she made partner, the firm’s nepotism rule pretty much meant that Nate would not. He opted to become the stay-at-home parent, spending days taking care of their two daughters, three year-old Parker, and 18 month-old Cate.
Nate’s days are routine – get the children up, make them breakfast, run errands, and spend endless hours entertaining them. He loves being a dad and doesn’t resent Jenny’s intense focus on her work, which often means she arrives home to tuck the girls into bed.
While Nate knows he’s important to the women in his life, he sees himself as “basically nobody,” someone whose “existence was of little consequence to anyone.” Until he answers the door one day to a nondescript man, is hit with a tranquilizer dart and kidnapped. He wakes up in a room that looks like a museum, with Queen Anne style furniture and old masters hanging on the walls.
The man introduces himself as Lorton Rogers and presents Nate with an age old question: if you could kill one person to save billions of lives, would you do it? What if that one person is Jenny? Nate learns that Rogers works for a clandestine organization called The Praesidium, whose founder Vanslow DeGange, can see into the future. He’s used his powers many times in the past for the greater good. Yes, people die, but without DeGange’s intervention, many more would have perished.
Jenny is working on a case to sue Commonwealth Power & Light, alleging that one of their coal-fired plants in Upper Shockoe Valley poisoned the air and created a cancer cluster, sickening residents, many of whom have died. Rogers tells Nate that if Jenny wins her lawsuit, the utility will use a powerful scrubbing agent – sodium hexafluoride – that will accelerate global warming with disastrous results. Jenny will not give up the case, Rogers says, so she must be stopped. Nate must kill her.
Nate may not be practicing law, but he hasn’t lost the skills he once used to analyze a case. Does The Praesidium really exist? Did DeGange really arrange the Kennedy assassination to prevent the president from launching a nuclear war? And Martin Luther King? Killed to head off a small-scale civil war? He asks Rogers for current proof and gets it when DeGrange predicts the path of a tornado and arranges for the building to be cleared out ahead of time. Nate is astounded watching the story unfold on CNN.
Rogers is persuasive making the case to Nate. But Jenny is his soul mate, his true love. He knows deep down, he won’t be able to pull the trigger on that silver pistol Rogers gave him.
Can he find another way out of his dilemma before it’s too late? Unthinkable takes several unexpected turns, making it impossible to stop reading. (I can’t remember the last time I nearly pulled an all nighter to finish a book.)
Brad Parks, a former journalist with the Washington Post, has constructed a thriller that stretches the imagination, but also seems perfectly plausible. If there are people walking among us who can see the future, do they also feel an obligation to change what might happen? And, if so, how does one live with the moral consequences of such decisions?
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