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Let the Great World Spin

Image of Let the Great World Spin: A Novel
The best recommendation that I can give this book is that my fellow book club members read it, liked it, and talked about it at our meeting, which is an event that happens about as often as a lunar eclipse.

The plot of Let the Great World Spin: A Novel sounds a bit bizarre, as it follows a series of diverse New Yorkers all connected by Philip Petit's 1974 walk between the Twin Towers. The book begins with strangers watching him, and there's a sense that the reader may be embarking on a terribly high-brow endeavor with the vague theme of everyone being connected. Or as one book club member said, "I thought it might be one of those books."

Luckily, the reader becomes immediately engrossed in the story of the Corrigan brothers, from their days with a single mother in Ireland to John Corrigan's commitment to priesthood and service to a group of sex workers in New York. Almost immediately he is killed in a car accident along with prostitute Jazzlyn, the "two towers" of the book whose fall is echoed in the lives of people around them. Never is the book more heartbreaking than when Jazz's mother Tillie or wealthy New Yorker Claire talk about their dead children (Claire's son is killed in Vietnam). Death is a great equalizer, and both women find a measurement of grace in their lives following their respective tragedies.

Each chapter, while connected, could be a lovely short story, and McCann's characters jump off the page. Blaine and Lara, a pair of artists who cause Corrigan's car crash, see their lives unravel a few chapters in, and Blaine's egomaniasm and commitment to art above compassion is all the more stomach-churning because it's so real. There's a Blaine in everyone's life: he's the guy who thinks that you "just don't get it" when you don't like an art-house movie where women are decapitated. You are easily sucked into the lives of all of these characters, and even when the book moves slowly, the ending is satisfying, and even made me tear up.

Let the Great World Spin: A Novel is a great choice for a book club, and I thank my friend Emily for giving it to me for my birthday!