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by Kevin Baker
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.
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 a previously enslaved person, 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.