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Customer Review

745 of 788 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Do "Things Arise Out of the Ashes of Chance" or are They Meant to Be?, May 3, 2009
This review is from: Let the Great World Spin: A Novel (Hardcover)
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This is a brilliant book; lyrical, poignant and powerful. It is that rarest of books, the kind that you know will reside inside you for a very long time and will have changed you in some profound way that words can not address. It is a book that, when you reach the last page, will leave you feeling stunned and not sure whether to take a deep breath to digest it all or turn to page one and begin all over again.

In a sense this book is an homage to the city of New York. It begins with a true historical event, when Philippe Petit walked a tightrope between the twin towers of the World Trade Center in 1974. It is a marvelous sight. It was "one of those out-of-the-ordinary days that made sense of the slew of ordinary days. New York had a way of doing that. Every now and then the city shook its soul out. It assailed you with an image, or a day, or a crime, or a terror, or a beauty so difficult to wrap your mind around that you had to shake your head in disbelief". (p.247)

Several people look up to see this tight-rope walker and this shared act of perception is the glue for this book. In some way, each of their lives are inter-connected and will remain connected through time.

There is Corrigan, very religious in a social/political/and theological sense, who is struggling between his faith and the woman he loves. Corrigan's love is a Guatamalan nurse, hoping that he will choose her over his God. Ciaran, whose life is in flux, is Corrigan's brother. Tillie is a prostitute in trouble with the law and hoping that the legacy of prostitution will not be passed down to her granddaughters as it has been to her daughter. Claire lives on Park Avenue but also lives in a world of grief, forever mourning her son who died in Vietnam. Gloria is Claire's friend who has also lost sons in the war and wakes up every day to the violence of the Bronx city projects. Soloman is a judge, Claire's husband, who has lost his idealism as he deals with the criminals in his courtroom and tries to please the bureaucracy he is a part of. And then there is Lara, attempting to rebuild her life after a tragedy forces her to look more closely at herself.

The book deals with two very powerful themes. One theme is that things occur by utter chance. "Things happen. Things collide". (p.133) There is also the idea that things might happen for a reason.

"We have all heard of these things before. The love letter arriving as the teacup falls. The guitar
striking up as the last breath sounds out. I don't attribute it to God or to sentiment. Perhaps
it's chance. Or perhaps chance is just another way to try to convince ourselves that we are
valuable." (p68)

In this novel, the inter-connectedness of people and events is played out in a way that could be interpreted as either eerie, spiritual, or just plain chance. New York is there, always, in the background. It is a city of crime, love, hate, justice, peace, war and beauty. The city is personified to contain just about every human emotion I can think of. The people are a part of this city and they, too, are a mixture of good and evil, beauty and ugliness. As McCann says in the book, people can be half good sometimes, a quarter bad at other times, but no one is perfect.

This book is near perfect. I found the first 25 pages a bit slow but don't let that stop you. This book is a treasure, one that opens up more and more with each page. It is one of the best books I have read in a long time.
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Tracked by 1 customer

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Showing 1-10 of 26 posts in this discussion
Initial post: May 3, 2009 8:37:03 AM PDT
Hi B. Brody,
I did enjoy your review and certainly hope that it's offered in 2 weeks. [We share a common profession. I've been involved in social services for approx. 30 yrs.]

In reply to an earlier post on May 3, 2009 9:38:23 AM PDT
Hi Marilyn, I just looked at some of the titles you reviewed and it looks like we have similar tastes in literature. I'll read the reviews more closely in a little bit. Are you a clinical social worker? I am on a leave of absence (trying out retirement) but I'm still active in my professional reading, meetings and advocacy for the mentally ill. Bonnie

Posted on May 3, 2009 11:35:59 AM PDT
Hi Bonnie -- Great review! We only differ on the first 25 pages, which I thought were masterful. I think your review really captures the energy and essence of the book.

In reply to an earlier post on May 3, 2009 4:31:29 PM PDT
Hi B. Brody,
I was a Rehabilitation Specialist and spent many years working in a huge & wonderful mental health facility. Rehabilitation is very close to social work, however, we tend not to be as 'clinical' as therapists. We make fabulous teammates along with doctors & nurses, OTs, PTs, etc.
Look forward to talking to you some more. BTW, I just retired [again] & sincerely hope you enjoy it as much as I do.
PS Most people don't know about Rehab people, but there are many of us!

In reply to an earlier post on May 3, 2009 4:56:13 PM PDT
Thanks for the feedback. You write very well. Bonnie

In reply to an earlier post on May 3, 2009 4:58:11 PM PDT
I's rehab similar to vocational? Fairbanks, AK is limited in its offerings. Bonnie

In reply to an earlier post on May 3, 2009 6:34:01 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on May 3, 2009 7:54:54 PM PDT
Hi Bonnie,
Initially, Rehabilitation was just 'rehab counseling.' Then, it became 'voc. rehab counseling.' I entered the field early enough to be able to have a very broad rehab education. However, you are absolutely correct! My specialty is in Vocational Rehab & all of its ramifications. [ADA issues; initial assessments to determine readiness, etc. It's not as dry as it seems...]
Thanks for the compliment on my writing -- I'm trying to utilize whatever creative skills I may have had prior to my days, nights, weekends, etc. of never ending charting.
Hope this helps. Were you affiliated with a hospital, agency, private practice?
Would you ptefer emailing? Please let me know & please understand that I'm truly pathetic when it comes to the computer.....
PS Bonnie, I just emailed you. I meant to ask what you meant in Alaska being limited in its offerings. I thought that every state has a VESID, or OVR, BVR, DVR -- division/office/bureau of voc rehab is usually under the auspices of the Dept. of Ed. It's especially helpful to 'aging out' students, etc. We'll speak more in emails. Looking forward to tomorrow!

Posted on May 19, 2009 8:26:41 AM PDT
Now that I've read this gift of a book, I fully understand the absolute beauty of your review. Thank you for your objective meditations on one of my new favorite authors. I now await 'Dancer,' 'Zoli,' and others -- a belated Mother's Day gift from the family.

Posted on Sep 20, 2009 4:56:45 AM PDT
This review was right on target. What an incredible book! I want to tell everyone I know about it.

In reply to an earlier post on Sep 20, 2009 1:27:47 PM PDT
Yes, this book is amazing. I'm glad you felt about it the way I did. Bonnie
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