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New York, August 1974. A man is walking the sky. The city stands still in awe. Between the newly built Twin Towers the man is striding, twirling and showboating his way through the air. One hundred and ten stories below him, the lives of eight strangers spin towards each other...
Corrigan, a radical, passionate Irish monk working in the Bronx with a clutch of prostitutes; Claire, a delicate Upper East Side housewife reeling from the death of her son in Vietnam; her husband Solomon, a cynical judge turning over petty criminals in a downtown court; Lara, a young artist struggling with a spiralling drug addiction and a doomed marriage; Fernando, a thirteen-year-old photographer chasing underground graffiti; Gloria, solid and proud despite decades of hardship; Tillie, a courageous hooker who used to dream of a better life; and Jazzlyn, her beautiful, reckless daughter raised on promises that reach beyond the high rises of New York.
Set against a time of sweeping political and social change, from the backlash to the Vietnam War and the lingering sceptre of the oil crisis to the beginnings of the Internet - a time that hauntingly mirrors the present time - these disparate lives will collide in the shadow of one reckless and beautiful act, and be transformed for ever.
Weaving together themes of love, loss, belonging, duty and human striving, Let the Great World Spin celebrates the effervescent spirit of an age and the small beauties of everyday life. At once intimate and magnificent, elegant and astonishing, it is a lyrical masterpiece from a storyteller who continues to use the wide world as his canvas.
McCann's sweeping new novel hinges on Philippe Petit's illicit 1974 high-wire walk between the twin towers. It is the aftermath, in which Petit appears in the courtroom of Judge Solomon Soderberg, that sets events into motion. Solomon, anxious to get to Petit, quickly dispenses with a petty larceny involving mother/daughter hookers Tillie and Jazzlyn Henderson. Jazzlyn is let go, but is killed on the way home in a traffic accident. Also killed is John Corrigan, a priest who was giving her a ride. The other driver, an artist named Blaine, drives away, and the next day his wife, Lara, feeling guilty, tries to check on the victims, leading her to meet John's brother, with whom she'll form an enduring bond. Meanwhile, Solomon's wife, Claire, meets with a group of mothers who have lost sons in Vietnam. One of them, Gloria, lives in the same building where John lived, which is how Claire, taking Gloria home, witnesses a small salvation. McCann's dogged, DeLillo-like ambition to show American magic and dread sometimes comes unfocused John Corrigan in particular never seems real but he succeeds in giving us a high-wire performance of style and heart.