Synopses & Reviews
At the height of the Civil War, word spreads through the poorest quarters of New York City that a military draft is about to be implemented a draft from which any rich man's son can buy an exemption. The outrage this inspires escalates into the worst urban conflagration in American history.
Down in the waterfront slum of Paradise Alley, three women Deirdre Dolan O'Kane, Ruth Dove, and Maddy Boyle struggle with their private fears as they wait for the storm to descend upon them. Deirdre, devastated by the news that her husband, Tom, has been wounded at Gettysburg, must turn for comfort and aid to two women she has always judged as morally depraved Ruth, married to an ex-slave, and Maddy, a hard-living prostitute.
Kevin Baker's acclaimed masterpiece is an unforgettable portrait of three women who come together to protect their homes and families from the brutality of a city and a nation gone mad.
"[A] terrifying, human story bursting with all the calamity, brutality and power of the riots themselves....[Baker] give[s] readers an invigorating, heartbreaking tale of the immigrant experience." Publishers Weekly
"[D]eftly plotted, fabulously detailed, and never less than absorbing. An authoritative blend of documentary realism and driving narrative that's just about irresistible." Kirkus Reviews (Starred Review)
"[A] richly detailed, impeccably researched drama....[H]istorical fiction fans will relish the book's grand sweep as they savor its well-crafted parts." Brad Hooper, Booklist
"Extraordinary....Baker achieves a hallucinatory realism packed with sensory detail." Los Angeles Times Book Review
"Baker's period detail can be both gripping and gruesome....Fortunately, he lavishes the same painstaking attention on his characters, flawed players in a drama whose vast scope they only dimly imagine. (Grade: A-)" Thom Geier, Entertainment Weekly
"Kevin Baker is quickly altering the landscape of American historical fiction. His first novel, Dreamland
, burst into flames three years ago a hypnotic portrayal of Coney Island designed to parallel the chaotic city of New York in 1911. His latest, Paradise Alley
, stays on Manhattan, but it moves back to the Civil War, rescuing from national amnesia the worst riot in US history.
Baker's descriptions of New York City could be more pungent only with scratch 'n' sniff inserts. While Dreamland rose into the lurid surrealism of the carnival, for this more grounded history, Baker has only to follow the ghastly imagination of the rioters, whose deeds he unearthed in contemporary newspaper accounts. Indeed, this mammoth book threatens Cormac McCarthy's position as the country's most violent novelist." Ron Charles, The Christian Science Monitor (read the entire CSM review)
They came by boat from a starving land—and by the Underground Railroad from Southern chains—seeking refuge in a crowded, filthy corner of hell at the bottom of a great metropolis. But in the terrible July of 1863, the poor and desperate of Paradise Alley would face a new catastrophe—as flames from the war that was tearing America in two reached out to set their city on fire.
About the Author
The critically acclaimed novel Dreamland established Kevin Baker as "one of America's best new writers" (Boston Herald). Now, with Paradise Alley, he emerges as one of the most important voices of his generation. Currently at work on the third volume of his City of Fire trilogy, Mr. Baker is also the author of the novel Sometimes You See It Coming and served as chief historical researcher for the nonfiction bestseller The American Century. He is married and lives in New York City.