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Reviewed by Kris Moger for Readers' Favorite
In Panhandlers by Nick Schuck, the world of poverty is laid bare in places where there seems to be little else to do but sell drugs, sex, and violence. The story begins with two young boys, Hank and Teddy, and works through aspects of their lives and the lives of those caught in the same sphere of bleakness. It is a circle of darkness and stark survival in the desperation to live the American dream, which is more like a hopeless nightmare. This is a reality where people have little value except what a person can get out of them, like betting on an old, gnarled dog shredded by one too many fights. There is no love. There is no future. There is just the present sucking them down into oblivion.
Nick Schuck writes Panhandlers with unapologetic prose. Every line seems to carry the weight of apathetic bargaining with the devil – as though each character knows they aren’t going to win but they sign the deal anyway in hopes of finding a loophole. Every person seems to owe a debt they can’t repay. At the same time, there is a constant struggle in the pecking order as they step on each other to reach the finish line with even a tiny something more than what they started with. Death means little, and family loyalty is a risky luxury - even those with money could lose. Every story is raw and blunt with the ironic bitterness of drugs, alcohol, and power. It is an interesting ride.