The Possible World (Hardcover)

A Novel

By Liese O'Halloran Schwarz

Scribner, 9781501166143, 368pp.

Publication Date: June 26, 2018

List Price: 27.00*
* Individual store prices may vary.


A richly compelling and deeply moving novel that traces the converging lives of a young boy who witnesses a brutal murder, the doctor who tends to him, and an elderly woman guarding her long buried past.

It seems like just another night shift for Lucy, an overworked ER physician in Providence, Rhode Island, until six-year-old Ben is brought in as the sole survivor from a horrifying crime scene. He’s traumatized and wordless; everything he knows has been taken from him in an afternoon. It’s not clear what he saw, or what he remembers.

Lucy, who’s grappling with a personal upheaval of her own, feels a profound, unexpected connection to the little boy. She wants to help him…but will recovering his memory heal him, or damage him further?

Across town, Clare will soon be turning one hundred years old. She has long believed that the lifetime of secrets she’s been keeping don’t matter to anyone anymore, but a surprising encounter makes her realize that the time has come to tell her story.

As Ben, Lucy, and Clare struggle to confront the events that shattered their lives, something stronger than fate is working to bring them together.

An expertly stitched story that spans nearly a century—from the Great Depression through the Vietnam War era and into the present—The Possible World is a captivating novel about the complicated ways our pasts shape our identities, the power of maternal love, the loneliness born out of loss, and how timeless bonds can help us triumph over grief.

About the Author

Liese O’Halloran Schwarz, an emergency-medicine doctor, published her first novel Near Canaan while in medical school. Her most recent novel is The Possible World, and she currently lives in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, where she is at work on her next book.

Praise For The Possible World: A Novel

"Hauntingly beautiful . . . a bittersweet story full of imagination and nostalgia, loss and redemption . . . will seize readers from the first scene and hold tight until its satisfying conclusion."
Kirkus Reviews

“Schwarz blends beautifully crafted prose with three highly compelling tales into one overarching saga of loss and memory.”

“Schwarz blends a clear-eyed acceptance of life’s pain and cruelties with a hopeful message about the enduring power of love in this rich and memorable novel . . . the prose is assured and lyrical, infusing each narrative with sensory and emotional detail.”
Publishers Weekly

“Schwarz weaves three captivating stories into one entertaining story, showing how our pasts shape our present, and how some human bonds can help us overcome our emotional and psychological pain. The Possible World is a brilliantly written moving story about human struggle with identity and loneliness.”
Washington Book Review

“Engrossing . . . Schwarz creates a realistic and compelling story of three characters' intertwined lives that completely immerses the reader in their worlds . . . a captivating and moving story of grief and loss and the power of love.” 
Shelf Awareness

“Every now and then I come across a book I wish I’d written. The Possible World is one of those. Liese O’Halloran Schwarz’s book is a gorgeously wrought exploration of who gets to tell the story of our lives, and who gets to inhabit that story with us.”
Jodi Picoult, New York Times bestselling author of Small Great Things

“Set, fittingly, in Providence, The Possible World follows a wide cast blown far off course by their various tragedies.  Like her characters, Liese O'Halloran Schwarz is both tough-minded and tenderhearted, showing how fate tears us apart and brings us together. As all Rhode Islanders know, the state motto is Hope.”
Stewart O'Nan, author of Songs for the Missing and Emily, Alone

The Possible World is a triple threat: a novel that offers up flesh-and-blood characters, a white-knuckle plot, and perfect prose. A quadruple threat if you consider the deep emotional journey, the characters' lives intersecting and diverging in the most surprising ways. Liese O'Halloran Schwarz writes like a dream.”
Diana Spechler, author of Who by Fire and Skinny

The Possible World is a quietly stunning novel about solitude, redemption and the mysterious threads of human connection that tie us together in ways beyond what is tangible. An unforgettable book.”
—Carolyn Parkhurst, author of The Dogs of Babel and Harmony 

“Deeply felt, fully imagined, and paced so wonderfully that you hardly notice its tightening grip on your imagination. I read The Possible World obsessively, and will not soon forget Lucy, Leo, and Clare, these three unlikely voyagers, delivered in precise, sharp, graceful, governed, prose. Bravo!”
Richard Bausch, author of Peace and Living in the Weather of the World