Review & Book Tour: Let the Great World Spin

Let the Great World Spin Book Cover

Let the Great World Spin
By Colum McCann
Random House
December 2009

Here’s the blurb from the publisher:

Corrigan, a radical young Irish monk, struggles with his own demons as he lives among the prostitutes in the middle of the burning Bronx. A group of mothers gather in a Park Avenue apartment to mourn their sons who died in Vietnam, only to discover just how much divides them even in grief. A young artist finds herself at the scene of a hit-and-run that sends her own life careening sideways. Tillie, a thirty-eight-year-old grandmother, turns tricks alongside her teenage daughter, determined not only to take care of her family but to prove her own worth…

The Short of It:

Let the Great World Spin is a spectacle of sorts…a visual romp through 1970’s New York where the lives of many come together in unusual ways.

The Rest of It:

Let the Great World Spin is a collection of stories. Did you know that? I did not. However, the stories are told from several different points of view, and although each character has a very distinct voice, the stories eventually collide with one another leaving the reader standing there, wondering who or what comes next.

Something terrible happens, and as the chain of events unfold, we view the same event from different perspectives. It’s as if the world is spinning in slow motion, and we are forced to look at the bits and pieces that are not normally noticed when time moves at a  more normal pace.

There is something that happens to the mind in moments of terror. Perhaps we figure it’s the last we’ll ever have and we record it for the rest of our long journey. We take perfect snapshots, an album to despair over. We trim the edges and place them in plastic. We tuck the scrapbook away to take out in our ruined times.

Many of these characters are flawed. They are striving for something, and often find themselves on the outside looking in. As they observe the world around them, life as we know it, continues on. As I read this book, I was mesmerized by the author’s ability to take me in and out of a character’s head. One story is told from a prostitute’s point of view, and as I was reading her story, I felt what she was feeling, the frustration, the loss, the helplessness. It was a lonely place to be.

I know I haven’t said much about the plot, but as you can imagine, when something terrible happens, there is a downward spiral that takes place. As things come crashing to a halt, there is no place to go but up. This book is like that. We take the plunge into despair, visit with these characters awhile, and then we’re given a small glimpse of what lies ahead. To me, the the plot didn’t really matter. I was so absorbed the the internal conflict within each character that plot was secondary to me.

I love this book. I appreciate this book. I am in awe of this book.

It has a quiet, understated quality to it that I wasn’t expecting. The characters are complex and conflicted and even though some of them may not be the type of people I’d be friendly with, I could relate to many of them. This is the type of book that you can re-read, and see  (and feel) something different each time you pick it up.

I know for some readers, the varying perspective was a source of confusion at times, but once I figured out where the author was going, I had no problem with the different viewpoints.

Let the Great World Spin will be on my list of faves for 2010 and was a National Book Award winner for 2009.

Photo of Colum McCann

To visit McCann’s website, click here.

To view McCann’s other TLC tour stops, click here.

Source: A big ‘thank you’ to TLC Book Tours for asking me to be a part of this tour and to the publisher for providing me with a review copy of the book.

29 thoughts on “Review & Book Tour: Let the Great World Spin”

  1. I am so interested in reading this! Also, I am reading a book that I can’t help but think of you as I read because I suspect you would love it – The Passage by Justin Cronin.

  2. The clouds parted and I think I saw Jesus when I read this book. By far the best book I’ve read this year, maybe in years. The audio was phenomenal, with different narrators for each personality. I was so emotionally touched by this book, that when I read critical reviews, it breaks my heart. Beth/Candace found small factual errors in it that bothered her, and others just had a hard time transitioning from one voice to another. I literally could not stop listening. It totally sucked me in. I’m pleased that you loved it!

    1. I’ve noticed that readers that are a bit older seem to love it, but the younger ones seem be a little more nit–picky over it. I think this may be one of those books that you just have to read at the right time.   Reading this book was like standing in the center of a room, on a lazy susan, spinning around and just watching all of their stories unfold. I was in awe throughout much of it and speechless for the rest of it.

      No one would literally stand on a lazy susan but that’s how I felt.

      1. I honestly wasn’t in the right frame of mind to read this one. There was too much going on with Anna’s sister-in-law passing away.

        1. I agree that you do have to be in the right frame of mind AND the right place in your life to appreciate this one.   I’m thinking of you all.

  3. This sounds like a pretty powerful book that left quite an impression on you…sounds like I may have to check it out. Thanks for the review!

  4. I just finished this one as well and feel the same. It’s like you become completely caught up in the unfolding and overlapping stories of these fascinating characters and forget that you aren’t actually part of the plot. Only really great books can do that. I found myself thinking about them whenever I wasn’t reading the book.

    1. I could kick myself too because I’ve had a copy of this book for so long. The book tour is what prompted me to finally read it.

  5. I loved this one, too. McCann does a great job of writing a woman’s story and of pulling these disparate stories together.

  6. The reviews for this book seem to be so varied, but I still want to read it. Since I’m older, maybe the discrepancies I’ve read about won’t bother me too much.

    1. Yeah, I think older readers can sort of sit back and let it all sink in whereas a younger reader may want more action. Just a theory. I certainly don’t want to offend any reader with my comment.  

  7. This sounds like a very interesting contemporary collection – and your review put me in mind of a collection of short stories by Jay McInerney which I read recently with my book club…. although it has to be said that I fely McInerney was not able to write about women very well – it sounds like that is not the case here

    thanks for sharing


  8. Everyone seems to be blogging about this one lately. I am glad you liked it Ti. I do have the audio book from the library and hope to listen to it soon, or at least add it to me iPod for a future listen. Thanks for the great review.

  9. I loved this book, too. The audio was phenomenal and I checked the book out of the library so I could keep reading when I got home (I listen in the car). I found myself totally immersed in the book for days and was so disappointed it didn’t win the Pulitzer!

  10. Ti, great review. You’ve made me so excited to read this- and I think I’m old enough to appreciate it!! My book club voted it in for July so I’m going to read it just before our discussion.

    THanks so much for being on the tour!

  11. Thanks for the review. I’ve been hearing a lot of excitement about this book … and then some other opinions. It seems like one I need to read for myself.

  12. This review of Let the Great world Spin hit home for me. I had a friend who fought in Vietnam and on his way home from the airport was killed in a wreck. It has always sadden me when I think about his bravery and his outcome.

  13. I think I’m going to add this book to my list – I haven’t been interested in it but only because I thought it was about the walker. A friend read it for this tour and has been raving about it too.

    Thanks for the great review.

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