Cover image for The beggars' shore
The beggars' shore
Mucha, Zak, 1971-
Personal Author:
First Red 71 Press edition.
Publication Information:
Vancouver, WA : Red 71 Press, 1999.

Physical Description:
309 pages ; 21 cm
Format :


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X Adult Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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This is a story of a 17-year-old, Joseph Askew, growing up on the rough streets of Chicago's Uptown neighborhood. Raised in a religious commune, Joseph is at first shielded from the realities beyond the commune's walls. But when his parents are forced by the church to transfer to another state, he runs away and finds himself adrift: among the transvestites, prostitutes, and small-change thieves that call Uptown home. Eventually, Joseph is taken in by an elderly albino, a man dedicated to sheltering runaways, but his troubles are just beginning. As Joseph tries to gather the pieces of his life and create something of his own, he discovers how difficult it is to find one's place in the world.

Reviews 1

Publisher's Weekly Review

As well-known writer Andrew Vachss (Choice of Evil) explains in a promotional letter, Red 71 Press (of which he is a founding member) was created "for the express purpose" of publishing this debut novel by a Chicago freelance writer. Freighted with the expectations raised by such a bold declaration of support, Mucha's urban parable struggles to bring its ill-fated characters to convincing life. Bleak, stiffly written and often simplistic in its moral grappling, the novel blunders aimlessly in and out of vagrant points of view as it chronicles the hapless odyssey of young Joseph Askew, who was born and has spent his entire life in the People's Church of Chicago, a religious cult commune. When his parents are exiled to a remote parish in Iowa a month before his 18th birthday, Joseph opts to leave the group. But life on the mean streets proves daunting and dangerous. Escaping enslavement by a duo of toughs engaged in selling inhalants to kids, Joseph is taken in by the Mayor, an albino alcoholic pedophile who puts him to work as a shoplifter. Eventually breaking free, Joseph finds a job in a liquor store after taking up with a junkie girlfriend who trades sexual favors to support her habit. The shopworn parade of transvestites, two-bit whores and assorted unwashed street denizens blur into a crowd as the feckless Joseph is exploited at every turn. Composing his chronicle in fragmented vignettes, Mucha succeeds in conveying the dead-end empty lives of people trapped by poverty, drugs and hopelessness. The narrative has a certain power as one follows Joseph's search for a path out of the maze of circumstance that traps him, but the tension dissipates once it becomes obvious that he is incapable of extricating himself. (Oct.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved