Books
Joan Dempsey

This Is How It Begins

One of “5 more over 50” writers to watch—Poets & Writers magazine

2018 LAMBDA LITERARY AWARD FINALIST

2018 MAY SARTON WOMEN’S BOOK AWARD FINALIST

WINNER, 2017 POETS & WRITERS MAUREEN EGEN WRITERS EXCHANGE AWARD

“Beautifully written … an ambitious and moving debut novel.”

—LILY KING, award-winning national bestseller of Euphoria

In 2009, eighty-five-year-old art professor Ludka Zeilonka gets drawn into a political firestorm when her grandson, Tommy, is among a group of gay Massachusetts teachers fired for allegedly discriminating against Christian kids in high school classrooms. The ensuing battle to reinstate the teachers raises the specter of Ludka's World War II past—a past she's spent a lifetime trying to forget.

The firings are the brainchild of Warren Meck, a deeply religious local radio host and father of three who is hoping to pass a religious freedom bill in Massachusetts. Meck favors achieving his goals through careful planning and legislation, and is disturbed when violence erupts. His concern quickly turns to alarm when he realizes those within his inner circle might be inciting the violence.

As Ludka's esteemed political family defends Tommy under increasingly vicious conditions, a stranger with connections to Ludka's past shows up and threatens to expose her for illegally hoarding a valuable painting presumed stolen by the Nazis. Only one other person knew about the painting—a man she's been trying to find for sixty years.

Compulsively readable, This Is How It Begins is a timely novel about free speech, religious freedom, the importance of empathy and the bitter consequences of long-buried secrets.
387 printed pages
Original publication
2017

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