A bitter, middle-aged teacher and a harshly used teenage mother reach out to each other in this mean-streets story from Grant (Mary Wolf, 1995, etc.). Margaret Johnson teaches at a city school neglected by the administration and the students. By day she watches teenagers trickle in braised, high, cynical, hopeless; by night she sits at home recalling her miscarriages and failed marriage, fretting over the school's shameful facilities, thinking about babies having babies. She's especially drawn to Raina, who shows up only to drop off beautifully written, horrible tales of childhood abuse and neglect, of living on the streets with a junkie, of watching him killed only moments after she agreed to prostitute herself for his habit. Although Raina puts up a tough front, her stories are an explicit cry for help. Nothing in her life, however, has taught her how to accept help when it's offered, and as Margaret is understandably reluctant to open herself to further hurt, there is a gulf between them that they both must cross. Grant creates a nightmarish world in which the few who care are nearly overwhelmed by the sick, desperate, predatory, indifferent, and damaged. She takes readers on a scary, exhausting ride, but her women are strong enough to survive, to overcome their differences, and, in the end, to try for the family they both crave.