Colum McCann’s Let the Great World Spin is a story about strangers in New York City who by mere coincidence, meet and end up impacting each others lives immensely. It’s not exactly a new concept — the movie Magnolia comes to mind.
After all, we all want to believe that our every day choices make a difference for someone in the long run. We need to believe that big things are happening all the time. McCann has convinced me that they do.
Let the Great World Spins centres on a few stories: an Irishman who looks for his brother in the Bronx, a Park Avenue housewife who’s lost her son to the Vietnam War, a second-generation prostitute and her third-generation prostitute daughter and a recovered drug addict. The common thread is a tightrope walker that manages to walk between the Twin Towers. Yes, those Twin Towers.
McCann does a great job tying all the stories together using poetic language that’s beautiful but never flowery. I’m usually not a fan of stories that weave-in so many characters but I loved this one. For one, the characters are so concerned about themselves and only themselves. You get to know them well and you get awfully attached to them even when they frustrate you to no end.
We may want our every day decisions to impact the world in a big way — things like deciding to buy organic or giving your seat on the bus to an old lady. But we’re really just thinking about ourselves when we make those decisions.
Photo credits: stephenshames.com