Let the Great World Spin: A Book Club Review

Asian Fun:

Let the Great World Spin by Colum McCann won the National Book Award for Fiction 2009 for good reason. In a series of interconnected short stories, McCann paints a diverse picture of New York City in the 70s. McCann has the magical ability to capture the heart of both a rich woman grieving the loss of her son and a prostitute grieving the loss of her daughter. He is able to present each character with brutal honesty but at the same time extreme compassion.

I found some of his stories so beautiful and moving, McCann's language is fluid and he finds a beautiful and unique way to describe connection, loss and love. I also appreciate McCann's style, he "shines a light on the dark corners of the world" (well, New York City anyways) but without compromising the integrity of the story. Having worked in social work, I've seen some of the darker sides of humanity and as painful as it is to face, McCann does not exaggerate the suffering that some people are forced to continuously endure. I felt that McCann handled these darker sides of humanity with a grace and honesty that's difficult to balance. Its a credit to his talent that he was able to balance these two forces beautifully.

If you're looking for a unique and beautiful American novel, then dive into this literary masterpiece and know that even in the deepest despair of any story, you'll be rewarded with hope and the beauty of language by the end of this book.


Puerto Rican Pecan:

Let the Great World Spin, by Colum McCann, is a book about NYC in the 1970’s that centers around one day in the life of several characters, and a moment that brings them together in unpredictable ways. While well written, this book was a seriously depressing book for me. People abused drugs, experienced poverty and unfair treatment from those around them, were killed, abused and were abused. And through it all, there was almost nothing at the end to inspire hope. I was happy to have finished it.

This book, while not my cup of tea, did have some good parts to point out. McCann’s character, Corrigan, was an interesting person to follow in this book. I loved his embodiment of God’s word, truly giving of all that he had in mind, body, and worldly possessions. I loved watching his internal struggle of trying to decide whom he loved more, Christ or Adelita. And what’s more, I appreciated his ability to look past wanting to do what he liked, and instead liked what he did. I also enjoyed reading from the perspective of the tight rope walker. McCann created a conflict within me through this character because, though the majority of the book is doom and gloom, the tightrope walker casts the light of beauty and optimism over the mayhem that ensues below him. I wanted to stop reading, and yet even I was drawn to see more of the book through his eyes.


In the end though, the doom and gloom of Tillie Henderson’s story caught up with me. It was as if McCann chose every bad thing that could ever happen to a person, and then acted them out on Tillie. It felt overdone and overplayed, and by the time Tillie hung herself, I could only feel glad to have her out of the story so we could all finally have a little peace.

Here’s the bottom line – if you like melodrama and want something to make you feel better about your own life, then this book is for you. Otherwise, take a pass on this one.

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