This is a brave and captivating novel about a potentially dry, academic subject—economic inequality—which Scudamore (The Amnesia Clinic) brings vividly to life. The setting is São Paulo, Brazil, where slums and sprawling shantytowns abut glittering office towers and extraordinary affluence. Drug lords run the ghetto and provide social services, security, and their own form of justice. The wealthy fly above the fray in their helicopters, landing in their gated and heavily fortified communities, seldom acknowledging the poverty below. Protagonist Ludo is a conflicted character who bridges these two worlds; as a young boy, he was rescued from the slums and adopted by a rich businessman and his wife.
VERDICT This ambitious novel is built around a vital question—How should we live in the face of such devastating poverty?—and it is to Scudamore's credit that he both asks it and then engages it with great sympathy, courage, and intelligence. The result is a richly detailed, beautifully executed work that should move readers deeply.