Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Book Review - Let the Great World Spin by Colum McCann

I've always been captivated by stories of New York in the 70's and 80's, back when it was still a dangerous and trashy city, when Times Square was all smut and crime, without the Disney musicals. Let the Great World Spin takes place in that era. It has all the dirt and grime, but it is a story about people, so it also has their hope. The stories move between the South Bronx, the Upper East Side and the Financial District (the southern tip of Manhattan).

The book takes the stories of many different people, from all parts of life, and weaves them together slowly and delicately. Most of them do not even know they are connected; they may sense it, but they will never fully understand it. An Irish priest and his brother, living in the South Bronx, one to find the underworld, the other trying to get out of it, become entangled in the lives of a group of prostitutes. A rich mother loses her only son in Vietnam and tries to find other mothers to connect with. A lost artist gets into a car accident that will change the course of all of their lives and set the story fully in motion.

The stories are all fictional, but they have something very important, and completely true, in common. In 1974 Phillipe Petit strung a wire between the Twin Towers and by walking across it he created an instant network of people, all connected by the same miraculous moment. Petit created one more piece of web to connect all of these stories. At the very height of their stories, the climactic turning point, they all experience the man dancing on the wire between the Twin Towers. His 140 foot length of cable, somehow crossed over the entire city at once, From the South Bronx, to the Upper East Side and back to the Financial District.

I loved this book. It's definitely a must-read for any fiction lovers.

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