In a weaving together of contradictory realms—past and present, rustbelt city and rural/urban South, old-world Catholicism and backwoods Protestantism—Joseph Bathanti draws readers into the 1970s as protagonist George Dolce faces major upheaval in The Life of the World to Come. George aspires to leave his blue collar, Catholic neighborhood of East Liberty in Pittsburgh. He is on the cusp of graduation from college and headed for law school when he becomes entangled in a local gambling ring. After his father gets laid off at the steel mill, George dramatically increases his wagering to help his parents with finances. What’s more, he allows his boss at his real job and love interest’s father, a pharmacist named Phil Rosechild, to place bets through him with the gambling ring’s volatile kingpin. As his parents’ financial situation deteriorates, George delves deeper into gambling, and he even goes so far as to set up Phil by using the pharmacist’s unschooled and ever-growing betting practices to his own end—cheating the father of the woman he loves. When Phil welches on a large bet that George has placed for him, George finds himself in life-threatening trouble and must abandon his law school dreams. He robs the pharmacy, steals the delivery car, and flees south. After his stolen car breaks down in Queen, North Carolina, he meets a young, mysterious woman known as Crow. The two form a bond and eventually take to the road in an attempt to reconcile their harrowing, often surreal destiny and to escape George’s inevitable punishment.