In the underworld of Chicago's Halsted Street, a red-light district littered with the homeless, runaways, and the lost, three lives converge in an explosive triangle of love, revenge, and betrayal.
Lance, a brutal addict in love with Brooke, a seventeen-year-old prostitute, trades on his beauty in male strip clubs to support his habit. Anthony, whose motives for dancing are more complex, but equally self-destructive, offers Brooke a way out of her life on the street - but is not sure he can leave himself. In confronting each other, the two men must confront the demons which have driven them to Brooke, the street, and each other.
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Blearily fatalistic and oddly elegiac, this second novel by Elliott (A Life Without Consequences) tells the story of two strippers and a call girl who roam grimy Halsted Street on Chicago's dark underside. Anthony, 34, still dances for a living, but is slowly losing his grip on street life as he grows older. Beautiful, unbalanced 27-year-old Lance has blue teardrops tattooed under his eyes to indicate how many men he has killed, but is helplessly in love with 17-year-old Brooke, who looks like a schoolgirl and secretly dreams of seducing the father she left behind in Michigan. Anthony observes Brooke and Lance's relationship from a distance while slowly becoming more enmeshed in their lives. As the novel builds to a climax, Lance teeters on the brink of madness, Anthony gradually begins to make a respectable life for himself and Brooke returns to Michigan to settle things with her father. The Chicago descriptions are grittily real, but the affectless present-tense prose ("Anthony looks up at Lance's smiling face. He knows Lance") grows monotonous. All Elliott's characters are cut off from their feelings, each of them a step away from disaster, and the story's conclusion is predictably brutal and unemotional. Elliott's history he has worked as a stripper himself and grew up in Chicago gives the novel the stamp of authenticity, but the listlessness of his characters keeps the narrative at a perpetual low ebb.
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc.
Elliot's first novel, A Life without Consequences, explored lives of poverty and suffering on Chicago's South Side. In his second novel, Elliot turns to Halsted Street on Chicago's North Side, an affluent area with a dark underside. The story follows three sex workers: teenage prostitute Brooke; her stripper boyfriend, Lance; and Anthony, a thirtysomething, soon-to-be-washed-up stripper. When Brooke ends her relationship with Lance, he descends into acute homelessness and addiction, all the while believing that his only hope is the impossible: winning back Brooke. Anthony, meanwhile, struggles to escape the sex-worker life. These characters' love for one another, and for themselves, is marked by rape, murder, and exploitation. Elliot, who grew up homeless in Chicago, knows his material all too well, and at its best, this novel is terrifyingly real. It's too bad, though, that the dialogue is often overwrought and melodramatic. Still, the book lays bare the cold and dark reality of a place that is the "same as everywhere else, just worse." John Green
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