cover image The Underworld

The Underworld

Kevin Canty. Norton, $24.95 (256p) ISBN 978-0-393-29305-0

Set in the 1970s, this stunning and deeply moving novel follows a disparate cast of characters in the mining town of Silverton, Idaho, before and after a disastrous fire in the mine that changes their lives. Hope isn’t easy to keep alive in this hard-drinking, hard-living town, and everyone secretly dreams of somehow getting out, even when so few of them actually manage to do so. The story is anchored by David, a college freshman living not far from where he grew up, whose father and brother both work in the mine and who constantly feels the pull of his hometown, and Ann, a frustrated and lost young woman who fantasizes about another life that she believes will always elude her. The two are drawn together following overwhelming personal losses after the accident. What follows is a complex portrayal of trauma, grief, and how to find light in the darkness—quite literally, in fact, in the case of Lyle, an older miner trapped underground after the accident, who is forced to confront the meaning of his life and what might come next if he is saved. The voices of these characters are as memorable as their struggle to keep going in the face of tragedy. (Mar.)