This Side of Brightness is an earlier work by Colum McCann, recently acclaimed for Let the Great World Spin. Since I liked that, I decided to read some of his earlier work.
Both of these books weave historical fact with fiction. In This Side of Brightness, it is the digging of subway tunnels under the East River about 100 years ago centering on “sandhog” Nathan Walker who came north for work. This dangerous job blurs racial and ethnic differences; an explosion literally blows Walker and three other men through the earth and into the river.
Told in alternating chapters, is the story of Treefrog, a homeless man living in the tunnels that Walker helped build. An equally dangerous profession and madness has brought him out of the light and into the darkness of the tunnels.
The story spans four generations; they overlap in a way I didn’t see coming. This was a very satisfying read for me. I already have a “hold” on some of McCann’s other books.
This Side of Brightness