The short story which served as a springboard for this novel was selected by O'Brien as the best short story of 1938. And that story is the first chapter of the novel, -- A grueling but forceful picture of Italian immigrants in a large American city. Paul at twelve is faced with the job of supporting his mother and seven brothers and sisters, after the tragic death of his father, who was a bricklayer. The JOB is the theme of the book, as he learns his father's trade and carries on. Occasional relief in scenes of gaiety, in portrayal of characters, simple, kindly, crude, primitive, unfaltering in their devotion to their God. The style makes the reading difficult at times, for its is turgid, impassioned stream of consciousness, at times brutal and violent, but for the most part genuine.