You know, I wasn't going to write a review of this book at first. At first, I was ready to quit and say I tried, and give it up for a lost cause. I am so glad that I stuck with this book! It is a real treat to read.
This book is about a dozen people living in NYC in 1974 and how their lives intersected on one fateful day. There is a religious zealot, an artist, a judge, a housewife, a prostitute, a nurse, and a few others. On this particular day, a tightrope walker decides to take a hike across the urban canyon between the twin towers of the World Trade Center. A lot of people saw this tightrope walker do his thing, and parts of his story are interspersed with the others, and how one small act has reverberations throughout many lives.
Now, I almost quit this book because the first story (about the religious zealot) didn't really seem to make sense in the grand scheme of things. The second story, likewise, but if you stay with it, and keep reading, you will see the pattern that emerges.
Now if you're looking for mystery, or action, adventure, and thrills, then look elsewhere, because this book is totally not about any of those. It's very much character-driven. One would even say that the characterizations are very rich and inclusive.
It is a really great story and I'm glad that I read it. I was sorry to see the ending though, it rather sprung up more quickly than I had anticipated.
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 stories...you 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.
It took me time to get into the swing of this book,and when it finally ended i did. Was not impressed, wished it would have given us a longer story line on the tight rope walker instead of lingering on other characters. Over all i did not like it very much.
I predict I will be the odd-man out, but here goes: If you try to guard your mind against depravity, this is the wrong book to read, lol. I SO wanted to love this book - it had intriguing stories and characters - but honestly, I had to quit half-way through. Some of the sections were just overly vile, and I got sick of multiple 'f'-bombs on nearly every other page. I understand that sometimes life can be gritty and depraved, but imo a true literary artist can create interesting (even debased) characters without relentlessly searing your brain with smut. Draw me into your world without making me feel filthy and hopeless. I think a huge opportunity was missed here to shine some light of hopefulness into what can be a very dark world. I suggest you read To Kill A Mockingbird instead.
This is one of the best books I've read in the past year. Having lived through the events at the core of this novel, it was fascinating how McCann was able to weave them together around the man on the wire. It's a book that's hard to put down. It also led me to view the documentary "Man on a Wire" -- am sorry now that I did not take the time to see on the big screen. Pick this one up -- you won't be sorry you did!