Let the Great World Spin by Colum McCann

This book was the National Book Award Winner in 2009.  But, more to the point, it is a book our granddaughter claimed to be the best she ever read.  She  is twenty years old and in college and I decided that for her Christmas present this year, I would read it—as a gift to her!  I mentioned this in book club one evening when we were choosing books to read for the upcoming year, and a member said—‘It would be an even*better* gift if the whole book club read it!”

So we chose it for the January selection . . .

The story opens with two brothers growing up in Dublin—product of a broken marriage–and the younger brother, Corrigan, is well on his way to a life of dereliction.  After saving himself, in a fashion, by joining a group of monks, he moves to New York, and most of the rest of the book is told by the older brother who follows him there to be with him.  Corrigan, by this time, is living in a squalid tenement among prostitutes and dope dealers, but as a true Christian, has befriended all of them.  In fact, I am so glad I read the book if only to have met Corrigan—who despite all odds and environments–has lasting belief in the goodness of the world and of mankind.

Among the prostitutes, I think you’ll favor Tillie—the grandmother of a family all on ‘the stroll’.  Her daughter, Jazzlyn (wow!–the name!!_)has two little daughters and has fallen for Corrigan.

AMONGST or midst this scenario is  group of mothers who meet often to commiserate and mourn for the sons they’ve lost in the Vietnam War.  Of these, Lara wonders what she could have, or should have said before her son, Joshua, left.  “Don’t go” is suggested by the author.  That line tears at the heartstrings.

All this takes place in 1974

Let the GReat World Spin 1974

Let the Great World Spin 1974

1974–the year that  a wondrous act occurs in New York –a man crosses the gap between the budding World Trade Center building on a tightrope.




This really happened in 1974 and Colum McCann has taken us on a wild ride to imagine who in New York might have witnessed such a feat—and where their lives were at the time.

There are several stories interlocked in this book—and each becomes connected bit by bit as we turn the pages.  Could it have happened anywhere? No, not this time, not this book.  This story could only be told, in my opinion, in New York—with its diversity, its smattering of different lives, unlike any other place on earth.

I think the author had a brilliant idea to take the whole World Trade center image and bring it under a new spotlight—and from such varying viewpoints—-each time one of the characters spots the tightrope crosser, we are in a different space, with a different person, yet all the same, really, and making all of us the same as if we ourselves were there on the sidewalk, looking up.

Well worth the read—an astounding book with memorable characters–just what you want.

Four button review

Four button review


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4 Responses to Let the Great World Spin by Colum McCann

  1. FictionFan says:

    Glad you enjoyed this one! I thought it was great too and, as you say, so New York. The idea of walking between the towers still gives me vertigo though…

    • booksandbuttons says:

      New York. Last time I was there was to see Hamilton last winter—didn’t catch sight of any of the
      seamy characters portrayed in this book, but still, caught the flavor of “different” and yet cohesive
      in spirit. Thanks for your comment– no need for tightrope walking–just relax in your easy chair!

  2. Stefanie says:

    Sounds wonderful! And what did your granddaughter think of your gift?

    • booksandbuttons says:

      Ha-ha–she liked it!! and I rounded it out a little with a gift certificate to go on a
      shopping spree at Anthropologie–

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