In the Philadelphia neighborhood known as the Badlands, drug gangs rule absolutely. Each time a life is lost in the carnage of the local drug wars, a boldly drawn chalk outline of a body appears on the street leading up to City hall: a teenaged dealer, a priest, a little girl with a jump rope. Ofelia Santoro rides her bicycle through the dark, decaying streets, looking for her fourteen-year-old-son, Gabriel. She’s afraid of what she might find. Gabriel has fallen in with the most savage of the drug dealers, but now wants to get out—if he can. In this gritty, fast-moving novel, acclaimed Philadelphia Inquirer columnist Steve Lopez brings home the violence that is scarring America’s vast urban wastelands, and the humanity that might save them.
“An unfancy prose is streaked by strong, cinematic images . . . Lopez aims to prick consciences, in the tradition of the documentary novelist, and he does so with considerable style.”—The Daily Telegraph
“Lopez has done what Balzac, Dickens . . . and Dostoevsky did so masterfully: he has taken a torch to the back of the cave and returned to tell us what he has seen.” –Pete Hamill, The Philadelphia Inquirer