Bibliophile's Reviews > This Side of Brightness

This Side of Brightness by Colum McCann
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's review
Sep 29, 09

bookshelves: 2009
Read in September, 2009

Colum McCann’s This Side of Brightness is the relentlessly depressing story of three generations of a New York city family. Nathan Walker is a “sandhog”, digging a subway tunnel under the East River, when he’s involved a terrible freak accident. His connection to the family of one of his fellow victims forms half of the novel; the other half concurrently tells the story of the not-quite-sane homeless manTreefrog, who lives up in a cave high above the train lines on the West Side of Manhattan, where he seeks to expiate the sins that brought him to this place.

McCann’s writing is beautiful and poetic and his ability to imagine himself in the place of people whose lives are (presumably) so different from his own is impressive. But as I mentioned, This Side of Brightness is so relentlessly grim (appropriately so, given that McCann is writing about a poisonous brew of race and class, but still depressing) that even the beautiful writing doesn’t make me want to read it ever again. Even the ending, which I thought was meant to introduce a moment of hope, really didn’t seem hopeful at all!

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