June 1939. Francis Dempsey and his shell-shocked brother, Michael, are on an ocean liner from Ireland headed for their brother Martin’s home in New York City, having stolen a small fortune from the IRA. During the week that follows, their lives collide spectacularly with big-band jazz musicians, a talented but fragile heiress, a Jewish street photographer facing a return to Nazi-occupied Prague, a vengeful mobster, and the ghosts of their own family’s revolutionary past.

But when Tom Cronin, a one-time assassin forced into one last job, tracks the brothers down, their lives begin to fracture: Francis must capitulate to blackmail, or have his family suffer fatal consequences. Michael, wandering alone, turns to the heartsick artist Lilly Bloch to recover his lost memory. And Francis and his wife Rosemary try to salvage a marriage, a wedding, and ultimately the lives of the other Dempseys.

From the smoky jazz joints of Harlem to the Plaza Hotel, from the garrets of artists in the Bowery to the shadowy warehouses of mobsters in Hell’s Kitchen, Brendan Mathews brings prewar New York to vivid, pulsing life, while the sweeping and intricate storytelling of this remarkable debut reveals an America that blithely hoped it could avoid another catastrophic war by focusing instead on the promise of the World’s Fair: a peaceful, prosperous “World of Tomorrow.”


"What a beguiling debut Brendan Mathews has given us in The World of Tomorrow: clever, smart, ambitious, richly textured, and moving."

Richard Russo, Pulitzer Prize-winning and New York Times bestselling author of Everybody's Fool

"Brash, bold, completely entertaining, and dazzling in its evocation of time and place, Brendan Mathews's splendid debut offers pleasures on every page."

Andrea Barrett, National Book Award-winning author of The Air We Breathe and Ship Fever

"In this sweeping book of slippery secret identities, Brendan Mathews invites us to sink deeply into the hearts and minds of a score of colorful characters....Magically constructed and methodically researched, The World of Tomorrow is a vastly entertaining novel about the powerful pull of family, the weight of history, and the allure of escaping into a better life—all set against a vivid and unforgettable New York."

—Eleanor Henderson, New York Times bestselling author of Ten Thousand Saints

"What a book! The World of Tomorrow is a panoramic tour-de-force, a huge undertaking peopled with convincing characters and animated by a persuasive historical accuracy. But beyond all that, my fascination was with the way Mathews assembled the novel, sifting and endlessly resifting his characters like sand, as life itself piled up right in front of me. The grim realities of America on the cusp of a second World War will be recognizable, but in this capable writer's hands, the individual characters—passionate, secretive, naïve, lucky, unlucky, and sometimes hapless—remain full of surprises to the last. They exist not against the backdrop of history, but tangled up in its complex, cruel, or absurd demands, desperate to find whatever space is allowed them for intimacy."

Ann Beattie, PEN/Malamud-winning author of The New Yorker Stories

"The World of Tomorrow is a remarkably fast and exhilarating read, reminiscent of Michael Chabon’s The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay. This one grabs the reader from the beginning to its suspenseful climax....A masterful debut novel."

Publishers Weekly (starred review)