Let the Great World Spin seems to be a collection of short stories that take place in New York City around the time that a tightrope walker walked across a rope between the Twin Towers as they were being built in the 1970s. However, the reader soon realizes that these stories are intertwined and are beautifully woven together into one overlying story told in a cacophony of voices.
McCann has chosen New York City as the setting for this novel and the diverse peoples of the city are his characters. His first character is Corrie who was originally from Ireland but moved to America and has taken up residence in the projects of the Bronx where he helps the elderly and prostitutes alike. The next series of stories involve a group of women who have lost son's in the Vietnam War. Lastly, are a couple of stories involving a young married couple who have chosen to abandon their reckless drug-riddled life and start anew in the countryside. Interspersed between these stories are vignettes about the tightrope walker and his great mission to cross between the Twin Towers. When tragedy strikes, these independent series of stories come together into one powerful overriding tale.
This is by far one of my favorite books of 2009. Each story is written beautifully and can easily stand on its own. Yet the connection between all of the stories brings together so many different voices and narrators that the overall story is overwhelmingly powerful. McCann's descriptions of poverty, grief, love, and compassion can not go with praise. Though he is originally from Ireland, he is able to tell of life in New York City better than most actual residents would be able.