Wednesday, March 24, 2010


If you saw the documentary Man on Wire, then you know that Philippe Petit strung a cable between the towers of the World Trade Center in 1974 and walked, skipped, and hopped across in the wee hours of the morning. This day and event tie together the stories of several New Yorkers, and even an amusing group of California computer hackers. Petit broke a few laws to accomplish his feat, and Sol Soderberg, one of a diverse cast of narrators, is thrilled to be the lucky judge who will preside over Petit's case. Meanwhile, Sol's wife Claire is clandestinely hosting a support group for mothers who have lost sons in Vietnam. Her Park Avenue apartment sets her apart from the other members, but in some ways she is the most tragic character in the book, in her lonely, desperate attempt to bridge the gap between herself and Gloria, an African-American woman from the Bronx. Gloria's neighbors include Corrigan, a monk struggling with his celibacy vows, a mother/daughter pair of prostitutes, and Corrigan's brother, recently arrived from Ireland. In this case, Gloria is the one walking the tightrope as she careens between the poverty of her neighborhood and her new friend Claire's opulent life. This started out as a snoozer, but I became more wrapped up in it as the narrators' intertwining stories started to click. At the end I felt as though I had definitely spun full circle, but I thought that Lark & Termite was more deserving of the National Book Award.

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