Look Up

I know I’m a little behind on this one, since it came out in the summer of 2009 (and subsequently went on to win the National Book Award for that year), but I finally got my hands on Let the Great World Spin by Colum McCann.  And I’m certainly glad I did.  This is not just one of the best novels I’ve read all year, but it’s one of the best novels I’ve ever read.  I admit I was apprehensive at first, as I always am about such critically acclaimed novels-it’s almost as if hearing about how good a novel is everywhere you go somehow takes away some of the magic of discovering its quality on your own.  Regardless, I was surprised at just how impressive this work actually is.

The novel is a bit hard to summarize succinctly since there are nearly a dozen protagonists telling their stories throughout the span of the book.  But the two major plot points involve the experience of a man tightrope-walking between the towers of the World Trade Center in the mid 1970s, and the trial of a New York prostitute (however, several fascinating subplots pepper the novel).  The characters find themselves struggling with issues of faith, love, and loss, from Corrigan, an Irish Christian monk living in The Bronx dealing with the conflict between his vow of chastity and a budding romance, to Claire, a woman who is learning to deal with the death of her son, who was killed in Vietnam.  The novel’s protagonists are enthralling and still have the ability to grip the reader, despite there being so many of them.  New York City is also vibrantly portrayed, becoming a character in its own right.

The point McCann seems to be driving home is the universal difficulty of life for everyone, even the most ordinary among us.  The emotions in this novel are explosive and immersive; this is a book that wears its heart on its sleeve to be sure.  But the drama is never forced into the realm of melodrama.  Everything works naturally and believably, which allows the stories of the characters to really get into your mind.

I can’t recommend this book enough-you won’t be able to put it down.

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No Comments on "Look Up"

  1. cassie
    02/02/2010 at 9:35 am Permalink

    Have you seen the documentary “Man on Wire?” It’s about the guy that walked between the WTC…it’s one of the best docs I’ve ever seen.

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