THE POSSIBLE WORLD by Liese O’Halloran Schwarz

My New Year’s resolution was to liberate one book a month from the back of my teetering TBR stacks, and I’m so glad THE POSSIBLE WORLD was my February save. This beautiful novel winds together the stories of three strangers struggling to make sense of events that have broken their lives into before and after.

Six-year-old Ben is the sole survivor of a horrific mass murder that has left him an orphan. He’s erased the memory of what happened and assumed the identity of a boy named Leo.

Lucy, the E.R. physician who treats him when he’s brought in covered in blood, is working the Death Month—back to back nights—and sleeps at the hospital to avoid dealing with the implosion of her marriage.

Across town in a retirement home, 100-year-old Clare hides the secrets of her past behind silence and myths of old age, refusing any interaction that could lead to friendship. Until, that is, she meets a new, much younger resident who used to be a reporter.

As chapters weave between the voices of Ben/Leo, Lucy, and Clare, readers are immersed in the world of the Great Depression and the Vietnam War era. Anticipation builds over how, why, and when the separate story threads might connect. Will the characters discover the comfort of empathy? Will they find peace and hope? Why does Ben believe he’s someone else? Who really is Clare? Can Lucy face the truth?

The journey leading up to the moment that reveals answers to all these questions kept me turning pages as if I were reading a thriller. And yes, there’s a phenomenal twist near the end.

THE POSSIBLE WORLD is a powerful story about maternal love, the layers of grief,  and facing past wounds to celebrate survival.

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