Many thanks to my friend Kym for pointing me to the free download of Let the Great World Spin by Colum McCann offered on Oprah.com last week. I had the opportunity to read and enjoy a book that I probably wouldn't have ever read otherwise.

Using the true event of Philippe Petit walking a tightrope between the two World Trade Center buildings on August 7, 1974 as a backdrop, McCann explores the lives of several people in New York at the time who are all connected, one way or another. Besides learning about each person through his or her own eyes, we have the opportunity to explore certain happenings, like a tea in an Upper East Side apartment attended by mothers who have all lost at least one son in Vietnam and a fatal car accident, from different points of view.

McCann covers a range of characters--two Irish brothers who are as different as can be, a Jewish judge and his wife who lost their only child to Vietnam, a black woman who lost all three of her sons to Vietnam, and the hippie-type artist couple, for example. The section that hit me the hardest was from the point of view of Tillie, a black prostitute in the Bronx working the streets with her own daughter.

Without providing any spoilers, I'll say that the intersections of the characters in the book and six deaths, four before the start of the book and a couple during the course of the book, seem to have all happened in order for two characters to have the chance for a decent life. That's my take, anyway, when we fast-forward to 2006 for the (almost happy in a rather sad book) ending.

Two elements every work of fiction associated with Oprah have in common--long and sentimental. Those seem like a decent summary for McCann's book, as well.

Here's a brief interview with Colum McCann that I enjoyed reading.

My overall personal rating of Let the Great World Spin is a B.

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