Monday, May 10, 2010

Let The Great World Spin

Set in New York in August of 1974, this novel weaves the story of tragedy and redemption of a group of people who have no business knowing each other. 

Lightly centered around the actual events of August 7th, when Phillipe Petit, a French high wire artist strung a cable between the two towers of the World Trade Center and for 45 minutes crossed between them 8 times.   His feat was featured in a film last year called "Man on Wire", which was good, but also one I hear you need to not be dead tired while "watching."

Let The Great World Spin, is artfully told about the people down below who watched the event, how it influenced their day, even in the most remote way.  Petit is not even a primary character in this artfully told tale.  He is simply the "story of the day" to people whose lives are unknowingly intertwined. 

The author, Colum McCann tells his story by using a new character at each chapter.  Sometimes it is not clear for a few pages who the narrator is at the moment, but McCann uses this device well and brings the story, the people and their connections around.    He doesn't feel the need to close the loop on characters completely and obviously, but if you're paying attention you can catch the resolution (and redemption) of his cast of players.

McCann draws for us a  group of people who are flawed, insecure, and extremely likable.  This reader has never read a more sympathetic, but real in the light of day account of an inner city prostitute.  She's not the Julia Roberts, beautiful prostitute, she is addicted to heroin, and works her craft to get what she needs. She is conflicted between pride and sorrow that her daughter works the same corner she does.  She is a loving mother and grandmother who is at the same time pathetic and brilliant.   

We are also introduced to a grieving mother of a man killed in Vietnam.  Her support group is meeting at her house for the first time and she struggles with the fact that from the outside she looks like a rich, Park Avenue snob.  Who can feel sorrow for someone with so much?  She says the wrong things and is easily dismissed and yet her grief, isolation and desire for life make her not only likable, but someone you wish you could know.

One of the only complaints from our group was that while we were "updated" on the progression of a characters story, there were a few voices we wish we could have heard again.   We liked how the story wrapped up, we were mostly left wanting at the end.  I was sad to realize that the 30 pages of the book was an interview with the author and not the continuing story.