This Is How It Begins: A Novel

· She Writes Press
3 reviews

About this ebook

“In a time when religious liberty is on trial, This Is How It Begins 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, the New York Times best-selling author of Writers & Lovers

A woman bearing a thorny secret. A man fighting for religious freedom. A battle neither saw coming.

Massachusetts, 2009. Ludka Zeilonka is relishing her emeritus status. With the horrors of World War II willfully buried in her past, the eighty-five year-old art professor doesn’t want to accept that there’s escalating cultural unrest in her adoptive country. But when her gay grandson is fired for allegedly silencing Christian kids in his classroom, she and her influential family are thrust into the center of a political firestorm.

Warren Meck is worried about his sons. Leading a statewide effort to protect free speech in public schools for Christian kids, the popular radio host is on the cusp of taking his fight to the State House. But when his carefully orchestrated campaign turns unexpectedly violent, he’s alarmed by suspicions that someone within his inner circle might be responsible. 

As the increasingly vicious conflict plays out on the public stage, Ludka wrestles with resurfacing memories . . . and the exposure of a well-guarded secret. And when Meck identifies the culprit behind the violence, he faces an unbearable choice that could jeopardize his family's future. 

Can these two come to grips with unwelcome truths in time to make a stand in the final political showdown? 

This Is How It Begins is an emotionally gripping literary novel. If you like even-handed stories about hot-button social issues, rich character development, and thought-provoking narratives, then you'll love Joan Dempsey's captivating page-turner.
3 reviews
Sandra Alain
June 26, 2020
Two stories being told at the same time, one infinitely more interesting than the other. I expected both to eventually weave together in a more meaningful way, but they didn't. Really disappointing read, I won't get those hours of my life back.
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Third-party review
"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." from the publisher Only six years ago ...
Third-party review
I enjoyed and was captivated and intrigued by “This is How it Begins ” by Joan Dempsey. The genres for this Novel are Historical Fiction and Fiction. Kudos to Joan Dempsey for weaving different layers ...

About the author

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

Winner of the Maureen Egen Writers Exchange Award, Joan Dempsey is the author of the novel, This Is How It Begins, which won the bronze Independent Publisher Book Award for literary fiction and was a finalist for a Lambda Literary Award, Foreword Indies Book of the Year Award, and Sarton Women's Book Award.

This Is How It Begins was also selected by the American Library Association for the 2018 Over the Rainbow List of Literature Titles.

Among other awards and accolades, Joan has received a significant research grant from the Elizabeth George Foundation, a full scholarship to the Key West Literary Seminars and Workshops, a Maine Literary Award, and a residency at the Jentel Artists Residency Program. She holds an MFA from Antioch University Los Angeles.

Her writing has been published in The Adirondack Review, Alligator Juniper, Obsidian: Literature of the African Diaspora, and Plenitude Magazine, and aired on National Public Radio.

She lives in Maine with her partner and their family of animals. Learn more at

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