Set in 1974, Colum McCann's Let the Great World Spin
captures the spirit of an age -- when Nixon resigned, soldiers
returned home from Vietnam, the oil crisis was at its peak and the
technology of computers emerged on the horizon. But it is also a
brilliant reflection of the present, with its examination of faith,
art, love and belonging.
The novel begins one August morning as a tightrope walker makes
his way, through the dawn light, between the World Trade Center
towers, stunning thousands of watchers below. Using the true story
of Philippe Petit as a pull-through metaphor, McCann crafts a
portrait of a city and a people. Corrigan, a radical, young Irish
monk, struggles with his demons as he lives among the prostitutes
in the burning Bronx. A group of mothers gathers in a Park Avenue
apartment to mourn their sons who have died in Vietnam, only to
discover how much divides them even in their grief. Farther uptown,
Tillie, a 38-year-old grandmother, turns tricks alongside her
teenage daughter, determined to not only take care of her "babies"
but also to prove her own worth.
Elegantly weaving together these, and other, seemingly disparate
lives, McCann's powerful allegory of 9/11 comes alive in the
unforgettable voices of the city's people, unexpectedly drawn
together by hope, beauty and the tightrope walker's "artistic crime
of the century." McCann's most ambitious work to date has already
been hailed as an American masterpiece.