CLEAN SWEEP

After selling her successful advertising firm, Carli Morris retires as an independently wealthy woman. She spent three decades committed to work, and now she wants to “give back.” She starts by helping deliver food and clothing to the homeless and volunteering at a soup kitchen. This leads to a much more arduous program—Mobile Outreach. Carli joins a man named Grant in tracking down and checking on homeless people and aiding them whenever possible. Some folks living on the streets are upbeat and personable while others are hard to reach. But one of Carli’s most difficult cases is Grant himself. His work with the homeless has proved invaluable, but Grant sometimes appears out of sorts, perhaps indicative of substance abuse, mental turmoil, or both. He moreover reminds Carli of Henry, her older brother, who vanished 40 years ago along with the cult he was involved with. Carli’s efforts to help Grant and the street people may alleviate her pain over losing her brother. Lee’s story is unsurprisingly grim. Carli befriends street people who die, get sick, or reveal an unsavory side of themselves. The tale is also absorbing and convincing, as some of the homeless resist offers of assistance and must hide from “Sweepers”—police forcing them to move. The sights and sounds of New York City are showcased in the author’s taut, descriptive prose featuring Carli: “People passed, lights changed, and cars moved and honked, but they all seemed distant, even though they were barely feet away. She spotted Sarah clucking at pigeons and ignoring the rest of the world around her.” Though searing melodrama takes center stage, some intriguing mysteries quietly lurk in the background, from certain characters’ pasts to Grant’s theory that someone is lethally poisoning homeless people.

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