Before I get to Let the Great World Spin, I just want to mention a couple of quick things:
- First, the poll to select October’s book is up (to the right)! Voting will happen throughout August, with the selection being announced in early September.
- August’s book is Little Women by Louisa May Alcott.
- September’s book is Sea of Poppies by Amitav Ghosh.
- For an explanation of the new procedures, a link to the Reading Buddies Goodreads group, and an email reminder sign-up, head over to the Reading Buddies page!
Moving on: Let the Great World Spin by Colum McCann. As I did with the discussion post, I’ll start without major spoilers for those who haven’t read or who didn’t finish it but are curious about the book.
The novel is really a set of interconnected stories. It’s not until quite late in the book that all the stories click into place amongst the others, but it does eventually happen (for the most part). I was glad of it, as I had trouble figuring out the underlying structure when I started listening to the audiobook. I never got to the point of loving Let the Great World Spin, but I had no problem finishing it and thought it provided a lot to think about. I appreciated the huge range of perspectives McCann imagined while focusing on a central event, as well as the interplay between a personal event and a public spectacle. The first story, about the Irishman and his brother, was one of my least favorites, which seems to be a rather universal response. My favorites didn’t come until the second half of the book. The audio worked very well, with a different reader for each story, and I think it was a good match for the way McCann structured Let the Great World Spin.
I’m happy I looked at my paperback copy of Let the Great World Spin after I finished the audiobook, because if I hadn’t, I’d have missed the Reader’s Guide at the end. Colum McCann wrote a few pages about how his father walked out of one of the towers and all the way back to McCann’s apartment on 9/11 and how Let the Great World Spin is his attempt to heal after the tragedy. McCann still has the shoes his father was wearing the day the towers fell, covered in all the debris and memories from the day and representing a kind of hope. It’s amazing how the personal stories from which novels grow can add another level to a story; my whole perspective on the book shifted subtly when I read the significance behind the novel.
Now, just a few spoilers:
I think Gloria’s story was my favorite. I appreciated that McCann ended with the slightly more uplifting stories of Gloria and Jaslyn, which, while not exactly positive, allowed me to part from the book feeling a little less melancholy. I think they both represented a sort of healing process, a moving on without forgetting what came before.
Jenny mentioned a theme she and her book group discussed: “the way the characters lose the things that define them. Like the mothers who no longer have sons, and of course the city that no longer has its towers.” I like that. I think it fits, and in that way Jaslyn’s story, occurring as it does several years after 9/11, provides a kind of hope. Many thanks, Jenny, for sharing your groups insights!
*End of spoilers!*
If you read Let the Great World Spin, which story was your favorite? If you didn’t, do you think you will? And if you tried but set it aside, do you think you’ll pick it up again at some point?