Every once in a while, you come upon a story that reminds you that we, as humans, are often connected in more ways than one would think, and we’re all on this crazy journey together. Let the Great World Spin by Colum McCann not only depicts this connection literally, but it also shows the human side of each of its characters, highlighting that we all have individual experiences and life events that affect who we are and where we go. The book is centered around the tightrope-walking event that took place between the Twin Towers in 1974. However, I felt the tightrope walker was used more as a metaphor to look up and look at each other instead of staying in our individually protected privacy bubbles. The tightrope walk of Phillippe Petit in 1974 was a real-life event that occurred in the morning of a seemingly normal New York day and I’ve heard the documentary Man On Wire is a fascinating look at this event and the person behind it.
The book is written in the same style as Babel and Crash which may be why I loved it so much. McCann’s style of writing feels real. It feels like you’re actually experiencing NYC in the 1970s when the Bronx was burning, the “system” was broken, Vietnam had recently ended, and yet, if you look closely, you can still find kindness and compassion. Although the setting is the 1970s, I felt you could superimpose this to today just as easily. Maybe I feel a personal connection because I spend my weekdays working with people that have often been overlooked or unfairly judged as “damaged goods” and tossed aside when, in reality, we are no better than each other and if we just stop and listen I bet we could all learn a thing or two. I’ll step off my soapbox now because this review shouldn’t be about aspects of my own moral compass.
I highly recommend this novel to anyone who enjoys reading fiction about the human experience and the connections we may have to one another. A unique aspect of this book may be that everyone takes something different out of it and catches things that other readers may have overlooked. Perhaps that was McCann’s point after all.