Jimmy Breslin, a New York City newspaper columnist for 40 years, is inextricably identified with that city. Yet his nonfiction books and novels sometimes transcend the Big Apple. The Short Sweet Dream of Eduardo GutiÅ½rrez,, an exposÅ½ of immigration law, worker safety and corrupt politics, is such a book.
Construction workers die in New York City and many other locales every year. Some of those laborers are immigrants who have entered the United States illegally. Those workers, desperate to earn money to send to impoverished families back home, are hired easily. Many of their employers care little, if at all, about workplace safety. So, when Eduardo GutiÅ½rrez, age 21, died during the November 1999 collapse of a building under construction in Brooklyn, there was no reason to believe that anybody would much care except the family members and friends he left behind in Mexico.
As it turned out, Breslin cared. He decided to use the nearly anonymous dead man as the centerpiece of an investigative book. He learned about GutiÅ½rrez's decision to enter the U.S. illegally, his dangerous trek to New York City, his hiring by a long-time disreputable builder and the building collapse and the inquiry that followed.
Over the course of the book, Breslin introduces many other characters from Mexico, including the young woman, Silvia, whom GutiÅ½rrez loved. Her dangerous journey as a 15-year-old from central Mexico to illegal employment in College Station, Texas, constitutes the narrative's secondary plot.
Although Breslin makes these obscure characters jump off the page with his push-the-envelope prose style, the book does have its flaws. Its chronology is sometimes unclear. Asides about well-known figures such as New York City's mayor and other politicians sometimes feel intrusive. Those are more than quibbles, but none of them should keep potential readers from experiencing this compelling story. Steve Weinberg is a writer and editor who lives in Columbia, Missouri.