If you’re like me, you’ve spent a lot of the past two months daydreaming of “After.” After covid-19, after quarantine, after stay-at-home orders, after exhausted-looking nurses begging for more personal protective equipment on CNN.
After, I’d like to go to a crowded movie theater and order buttered popcorn. I’d like to hug my best friend; she’s pregnant and she informs me over the phone that she’s increased in size from Pluto to Jupiter. I have a long wish list, but sometimes its hard to imagine the world ever going fully back to normal. Some things are just too wounded. Recovery will be its own journey in ways big and small; it’s going to be a long time until I don’t marvel at a fully-stocked toilet paper aisle.
My latest novel, They Went Left, is set in Poland and Germany in the months immediately following World War II. It’s about the concept of “After,” when that concept turns out to be so more complicated than anyone expected. “What did they mean, it was over?” my main character, 18-year-old Zofia Lederman thinks to herself as her liberators celebrate V-Day. “I was miles from home and I didn’t own so much as my shoes. How was any of this over?” Most of Zofia’s family was killed at Auschwitz-Birkenau, and now she must set off on a quest to find her only living relative, her younger brother, Abek.