I enjoy character driven novels, especially when those characters live hardscrabble lives. The more "down and out" a character or situation is, the more involved I become. My interest is always piqued when a character's environment - or even his or her internal makeup - presents barriers to that character's advancement. After all conflict is the fuel for storytelling and, to be honest, fuels this schadenfreude reading tendency of mine. So I present three novels with characters that encounter seemingly insurmountable odds.