Have you ever considered how hard it is to get out of an impossible situation?
Michael and his brother, Julian, were raised in a home for boys. Iron House provided a shelter and discipline. Julian was constantly abused and bullied by other boys. Michael wanted to protect his brother and was forced to fight for both of them. As a result, he became a ferocious combatant. When Julian finally struck back at his main tormentor, Michael took the blame.
Julian was adopted and Michael left the home and lived on the streets, frequently having to defend himself. At age fifteen, he was attacked by a group of boys in Spanish Harlem. He fought courageously. Otto Kaitlin, a crime boss, was watching the fight and rescued Michael. He saw Michael as similiar to himself as a youngster. Michael became his protege and later, his main enforcer. Otto's own son, Steven, continued his education but didn't have Michael's fighting spirit.
Years later, Michael falls in love with Elena. When she becomes pregnant, he asks for Otto's blessing and permission to leave the gang and live normally. Otto is near death and Michael knows that Steven and the gang members loyal to him, wouldn't let Michael leave.
Michael visits Otto again and sees his friend in severe pain. When Otto pleads with Michael to end his suffering, Michael obliges.
Now he knows he's made an enemy of Steven and must go on the run with Elena.
There is a parallel story of Julian and his adoptive partents. Eventually, Julian's past returns to haunt him and he and Michael converge again.
The story is reminiscent of Charles Dickens where the central characters at the start of the story are in terrible situations and are impoverished. Somehow they must rise above the destitute and the manner in which this is done is entirely realistic and well described.