The time Jackson chronicles here is indeed residue, particularly the little that remains of hope in the unforgiving life of a decaying urban neighborhood in Portland, Ore.
Champ and his mother, Grace, know drugs. Champ eventually deals, and his mother uses and, now coming off a jail term, desperately wants to stay clean. Grace winds up getting a menial job, though she has to lie about her felony conviction to get it, and she looks for strength and guidance from her church. Her faith is tested, however, when Big Ken, the father of Champ’s younger brothers KJ and Canaan, brings Grace to court because he wants sole custody. Grace starts using again and, by the end of the novel, even has to resort to selling herself to feed her habit. Champ is bright and wants to continue his college education, but he finds life on the streets seductive and compelling—and it’s about all he knows. He has a girlfriend, Kim, whom he’s made pregnant, though he has little compunction about being unfaithful to her. To make ends meet, he starts dealing again, constantly trying to outsmart the cops who are understandably skeptical about his roaming the streets at night. Eventually, he and Grace are both caught with some marijuana when Champ is driving her away from a sexual assignation. Throughout the bleak narrative, Champ and his mother alternate chapters as Jackson moves us from the harsh and bitter voice of Champ to the milder but no less desperate voice of his mother.
A bleak and depressing—yet searingly forthright and honest—confrontation with the mean streets of urban decay.