Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Review - Let the Great World Spin by Colum McCann (4/5 stars)

I listened to this book on audio book; the audio book was really well done with each story being read by a different person who really fit the character.  I picked this book up because I had heard such wonderful things about it. It was a very interesting book and overall I enjoyed it.

The book is basically broken down into a series of short stories about different people living in New York City in the 70's.  In between stories there are interludes about a tight rope walker who walks between the world trade center towers.  In the end all of the stories and characters are tied together in some way.

The book starts out a bit slow; depicting the early life of a pair of Irish brothers and telling about how they ended up in New York City.   One of the brothers is looking for the meaning of God in the derelicts of New York.   Then there is a story told from the point of a old woman who lost her son in Vietnam.  The next story is told by one of the hookers the Irish brother tries to help.  Then a story about a young hacker who hacks into phones near the World Trade Center during the tightrope walk.  Next a story from the mother of the hooker who the Irish brother helped.  Then a story from a judge's point of view, he is the husband of the woman who lost his son in Vietnam.  This is just an example of the first few get the point.  There are nine stories in total, they are interrupted by interludes about the tight rope walker.

McCann does a great job creating believable characters that, while not very likable at times, are easy to sympathize with.  All of the characters are very human.  There is some plot as the stories of all the individuals interconnect and culminate in an interesting ending.  I wouldn't say the book is really plot driven though, it is more about taking glimpses into the lives of ordinary people and what makes them make the decisions they make.  McCann goes into deep descriptions so that you can easily visualize the settings and there is a lot of internal dialogue from the characters telling the story.  This is definitely not an action driven book but more of a slow paced mystery of sorts and a story of the social picture in New York at the current time frame.

The title of the book basically tells you the point of the story: no matter what happens history repeats itself and people's lives go on.

One of my biggest gripes about the book is that it moves at a very deliberate pace.  People who are into action or plot driven stories should skip this one.  If you are interesting in society and history, or about the ordinary man's story than you will enjoy this book.  The other thing that bothered me was how unresolved the ending was.  I was expecting something awesome and the book just kind of ends at the middle of a scene...I suppose this does depict life but I don't really like my stories to end this way.

Overall I liked the book.  It was well done and gave an interesting look into the New York City of the 1970's.  The characters were well done and believable; listening to this on audio book with the different speakers was awesome.  The pace of the book is pretty slow and the ending very open, which were the only negatives to it.   This book is for people interested in the human condition and history.  Action fans or mystery fans shouldn't expect much of either here.

This book goes towards the following reading challenges:
- The 100+ Book Reading Challenge
Let the Great World Spin: A Novel 

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