Friday, August 8, 2014

Let the Great World Spin by Colum McCann

On August 7, 1974, a tightrope walker, Philippe Petit, walked across a high wire rigged between the newly-built Twin Towers of the World Trade Center, 1350 feet above the ground. The stunt was unauthorized and a surprise to all who saw it.  In Let the Great World Spin, Colum McCann uses this event to unite the stories of various New Yorkers: prostitutes and the Irish priest who ministers to them; the priest’s brother who works as a bartender; a group of mothers who have lost sons in the Vietnam War; a judge and his wife; an immigrant nurse; two artists visiting from upstate and various other New Yorkers whose lives intersect in surprising ways. This is a character driven novel. More than ten different voices tell the story of strangers drawn together by a trial, an automobile accident, and a death. Lurking in the background are the defining anxieties of the early 1970’s: the Vietnam War and the resignation of President Nixon. Petit kept his balance while walking between the towers. The same could not be said of some who watched him from New York’s streets. Lives fell apart. People died. “NOBODY FALLS HALFWAY,” read a sign Petit kept on his wall.  This was as true of the ordinary people in the book as of the acrobat. And those who kept their balance throughout life put their own sorrows aside and stepped up to help friends and strangers deal with theirs. A book that celebrates the generosity of the human spirit, Let the Great World Spin a heartfelt look at a city and its citizens.