A portrait of immigrant-rich America of 1939


The new novel, "The World of Tomorrow" by Lenox native Brendan Mathews, is full of adventure, and is a textured atmosphere of promise, risk and the complete unknown that was the reality of an immigrant-rich America of 1939.

The symbolic presence of the 1939 World's Fair is the perfect backdrop for larger-than-life characters that exemplify dreams and challenges and the opportunity that encouraged pre-war immigrants.

The central figures in this story are three Irish brothers who find themselves in New York under very different circumstances. These characters' spectacular stories are dramatic and how they all play out keeps the reader riveted to the page. This is the kind of brilliant narrative any reader really looks for in a novel.

When Francis Dempsey is rousted from prison to attend his father's funeral, he has no idea what awaits him and his brother Michael, who has been in a monastery. They are abruptly spirited off to an IRA safe house, but what happens next is anything but safe. The safe house is an IRA bomb factory. An explosion and a suitcase full of cash later, the two brothers start a completely new life.

Michael is stunned by the blast, but Francis acts fast with a plan to board the RMS Britannic disguised as a Scottish royal bound for New York with enough of a fortune to live in style. They make their way to the Plaza Hotel, having already brushed elbows with some very wealthy families and spark some romance aboard the ship. Living out their "First-Class Plan" and enjoying New York, Francis and Michael look up their long-separated brother Martin, who is married with family and a talented jazz musician. The joy and exuberance of how events unfold for the brothers is counterpointed by the reality of the IRA and the police authorities searching for Francis.

The brothers' stories connect with lives in transition and searching. Lilly Bloch, reminiscent of the real-life Vivian Maier, is a photographer refugee who struggles with returning to an already Nazi-occupied Europe or living a life of creative freedom she has discovered in America.

Her fate is altered by a wandering and lost Michael, haunted by the ghost of William Butler Yeats. Martin's world of music is peopled with talented artists longing to make it big.

Each character lends dash and flamboyance, living out the hero adventure into which each has been cast by the times in which they live. Nothing in each turn of events is certain and the story stays fresh with every new chapter. Their lives come together in moments of luck and resolve, playing out aspirations while making peace with the past, especially when the past is in a distant land.

A reading and book signing event for Brendan Mathews, "The World of Tomorrow," is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Friday, Sept. 8, at The Lenox Library/Sedgwick Reading Room, sponsored by The Bookstore & Get Lit Wine Bar. Books will be available for sale and signing by the author.

Colin Harrington is the events manager at The Bookstore & Get Lit Wine Bar in Lenox. He welcomes reader comments at charrington686@gmail.com.


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