4 out of 5: At its core, Let the Great World Spin is a novel about a particular city—New York City—at a particular point in time—the summer of 1974. McCann illuminates his subject through a series of stories that overlap in interesting and sometimes unexpected ways. Tying the whole thing together is Philippe Petit's daring tightrope walk between the newly constructed towers of the World Trade Center, representing the idea that the “core reason for it all [is] beauty.” While I generally avoid comparing books to other works, the similarities between this novel and Crash—the 2005 movie about interconnecting stories in L.A.—are too striking to go unmentioned.
The diverse perspectives, voices, and writing styles make this novel an engaging reading experience. As is inevitable, some stories and characters are better than others, but McCann’s writing is strong throughout. With books like this, there exists a danger that the constant shifting will be unpleasantly frenetic, but McCann avoids this pitfall by taking his time to fully develop each story and character. Let the Great World Spin is occasionally messy and unfocused, and the last chapter is a bit of a let-down, but these minor imperfections are easily forgiven. Overall, this vibrant book will appeal to many readers, and I expect it to be one of this summer’s favorites.