Review: Let the Great World Spin

In Arts & Entertainment

In 1974, French acrobat Philippe Petit tied a steel cable between the Twin Towers in New York City and dazzled spectators with a daring tightrope walk 110 stories in the air. This incredible stunt captured people’s imaginations and turned an ordinary day into the extraordinary. It is one of the most beloved memories in the World Trade Center’s history.

But in Colum McCann’s contemporary novel Let the Great World Spin, the spotlight shifts from the fearless man on the tightrope to the stunned city dwellers below. A multitude of characters all struggling to understand their existence are connected in some way by this extraordinary event. Among these are an Irish missionary torn between faith and love, a Park Avenue housewife devastated by her son’s death in Vietnam, an aging prostitute who has lost everything and a judge struggling to accept his purpose in life. In a six-degrees-of-separation fashion, their lives are intertwined as they work through the raw emotions of grief, love, guilt and desire.

McCann takes you not just into each figure’s personal world but into their hearts and minds in extraordinary detail, making you feel as if each character is your dear friend. Every storyline has its own voice, as the book’s narrative style constantly changes to reflect the uniqueness of each person. In a world where “nobody falls halfway,” McCann shows you the collapse of each character and takes you through their personal journey to overcome chaos and find beauty in life.

This award-winning novel is beautifully written. It’s hard to put down once you start reading as you become invested in the characters the moment you are introduced to them. In a society that grows more convoluted by the minute, this novel will remind you of how valuable and connected each life is in the world.

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