Winner of the 2017 Maureen Egen Writers Exchange Award from Poets & Writers
“In a time when religious liberty is on trial, [this] is an extraordinarily pertinent novel dripping in suspense and powerful scenes of political discourse … a must-read ....” —FOREWORD (starred review)
"Beautifully written ... An ambitious and moving debut novel." —Lily King, author of the award-winning national bestseller 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 silencing 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. Radio host Warren Meck has been leading the Massachusetts campaign to root out anti-religious bias in public schools—but he believes in working respectfully within the political system, so he's alarmed and offended when his efforts are undermined by someone inciting violent action. Even worse, he fears the culprit is among his inner circle. As Ludka's influential family defends Tommy under increasingly vicious conditions, a stranger with connections to her past shows up and threatens to expose her for illegally hoarding a valuable painting presumed stolen by the Nazis. Compulsively readable, This Is How It Begins is a timely novel about free speech, the importance of empathy, and the bitter consequences of long-buried secrets.