Bobby is young and black. He shares a cramped apartment in the south Bronx with his mother, his younger siblings and the ceaselessly scratching rats that infest the walls behind his bed. Barely a teenager, he is old beyond his years. The best thing in Bobby's life is Maria, his Hispanic friend. They are in love, and they have big plans for the summer ahead. Their lives are irrevocably shattered when a vicious Hispanic street gang attack the couple as they walk to school. With Bobby savagely beaten and Maria lying in hospital, terrified and engulfed by the pain of her badly burned face, The Willow Tree takes the reader on a volcanically powerful trip through the lives of America's dispossessed inner-city dwellers. Into this bleak and smouldering hinterland, however, Selby introduces a small but vital note of love and compassion. When Bobby's bruised and bloodied body is discovered by Moishe, an aged concentration camp survivor, an unlikely friendship begins. As Moishe slowly, painfully, reveals his own tragic story, Bobby struggles angrily with his desperate need for revenge.