This Book Features Many Familiar Milwaukee Spots

‘All This Could Be Different’ received national attention, and it’s set in Milwaukee.

A buzzy book from former Milwaukeean Sarah Thankam Mathews brings readers on a tour around our city, with stops at Bay View’s LuLu Café and the East Side’s Y-Not II Tavern among other local faves. The debut novel, All This Could Be Different, follows the story of a young, queer Indian immigrant who’s trying to navigate her job, relationships, nasty property manager and complicated family life.


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When protagonist Sneha graduates during the recession, she luckily gets a corporate job that lands her in Milwaukee. She begins dating women and makes a few friends in the city, but has difficulty opening up to anyone about the struggles she’s facing: a family funeral brings up painful memories, the lucky-to-have job isn’t quite what it seems, potential eviction hangs over her head. 

Her friend Tig ultimately comes up with an over-the-top solution to (hopefully) solve all their problems. And Sneha realizes that maybe she can trust the people closest to her – and herself. 

Through her vivid descriptions of Milwaukee and lyrical prose, Mathews shows the power of found family – both in people and place. Released last year, the novel is getting plenty of national attention, including a nomination for the National Book Award and inclusion on reading guides from Vogue, NPR, The New York Times and more.


This story is part of Milwaukee Magazine’s March issue.

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Brianna Schubert is the associate digital editor and writes about art, culture and more at Milwaukee Magazine. When she’s not writing/editing, she’s likely reading (follow her book reviews on Instagram at @read_with_bee), cooking or listening to Taylor Swift.