Prairie Avenue, Providence, Rhode Island. A place it’s pretty hard not to see a block without a gutted-out tenement house and/or a car stripped of everything but its color at a curb. A place where the Bailey family has always been. But change, in the form of brick housing projects, crime, nightly fires and the flight of friends and neighbors, has elevated them to a higher level of anxiety. They lack the energy and the money to escape. They are victims of urban-poverty with only memories of better days gone-by, when Prairie Avenue was alive with Working-Class Men and their families.
Duke Sequin is not a Bailey but has always been deeply involved in the family. The story opens with Duke being released from prison where he served 5 years for Assault and Battery with Little Mick Bailey, his partner. Little Mick, unable to be released because of a bad temper, asks Duke to “take care of my family’ til I get out.” Duke is through with crime, through with Prairie Avenue and through with Little Mick. He rejects the request as he has his sights set on a new life in a new place with a new partner. He’s determined to change for the better.
Duke returns to Prairie Avenue to get his motorcycle and to say goodbye, but enters the middle of the struggle the Baileys are living; Big Mick Bailey, an angry and drunken out-of-work ironworker, too stubborn to leave; Doris, his wife, in a perpetual state of fighting the odd’s while attempting to maintain a sense of family; Jean Marie, her daughter, looking to marry for an escape out; Uncle Frankie, a lovable drunk, oblivious to the chaos around him; Danny, a recent high school graduate, sensitive and bitter, who at night sets empty tenements on fire with hopes it will force his father into moving out.
The story charts the course Duke is forced to take as he becomes husband-father-brother-lover-friend-protector and provider for the Baileys. He was passing through the Avenue and now can’t get out. His life and dreams are on hold. He forced to confront the self he thought he left behind. It becomes a life test he must endure.
Prairie Avenue is about people, good people, who want out from the neck-hold of misery so they can change, grow, love and be loved.
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