Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Walking the line

Book: Let the Great World Spin

Author: Column McCann

Published: 2009 (Random House)

Pages: 349

A man tightrope walking across the World Trade Center towers is a small excuse to tell the stories of an expanding grid of New Yorkers who saw, or knew people who saw, or loved someone who heard someone who saw it. But it works.

There’s the Irish priest who tries his best to take care of prostitutes in Brooklyn, and a mother-daughter prostitute pair, and the daughter prostitute’s daughters, and the Irish priest’s brother, and the obliterating van accident that kills the daughter prostitute and the Irish priest and how that affects everyone in that circle.

There’s the circuit judge who tries the tightrope walker for vandalism, and his wife who’s joined a support group of other women with sons dead from Vietnam, and the black lady in that group who always looks way more “churchy” than she really is, and the unlikely friendship between them, and the daughter prostitute’s daughters who end up in the care of the churchy-seeming lady and the judge’s wife.

There’s the tightrope walker, who isn’t much more than pretentious about how he finds his center to do what he does.

Eh. I appreciate the event to tie everyone together—the stories would’ve maybe felt just a little too loose to tie together otherwise—but it was almost unnecessary and easily the least interesting bit. Everyone else’s, in different voices that were distinct but still completely clear, found quiet, real poetry in common tragedies and how their different effects spiraled outward into unexpected ways and places.


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