I picked up this book not knowing anything about it other than the fact that Ragdoll loved it, and she has fantastic taste. As usual, she’s right–Colum McCann’s Let the Great World Spin is a marvellous read.

The story is set in New York City in 1974. The World Trade Centre has recently been constructed, and a high wire artist dances between the towers to the astonishment of those below (a real-life feat by Phillipe Petit). The artist is the connection between the diverse characters in this intricate, interweaving narrative, including: Corrigan, an Irish monk who tenderly cares for the prostitutes in his Bronx neighbourhood; Claire, the Park Avenue judge’s wife, and member of a support group for mothers grieving sons lost in Vietnam; Tillie, the thirty-eight-year-old Grandmother who walks the streets with her daughter; Lara, an artist trying to live clean after years of decadence, only to be sidelined by tragedy.

Masterfully, the stories connect (without relying too heavily on coincidence) post 9/11 in 2006. Despite their disparity, the cast has in common faith, resilience, and the appreciation of beauty, in whatever form it can be found. With McCann’s wondrous prose, his ability to capture the spirit of a city and his accomplished characterizations of its eclectic inhabitants, I would comp Let the Great World Spin to In the Skin of a Lion. Definitely one of my favourite books of the year, McCann has spun a great yarn.

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