Save for a rueful coda set in 2006, it is a novel about beginnings rather than endings, and yet, like downtown New York itself, it is shadowed by a shadow no longer there, and one can scarcely imagine it being written without that opportunity for rue … It is a book so humane in its understanding of original sin that it winds up bestowing what might be called original absolution, and it is a pre-9/11 novel that delivers the sense that so many of the 9/11 novels have missed.
The walk is really little more than a cultural touchstone and a literary conceit, the event around which McCann has assembled his cast. But the metaphorical possibilities of the walker — the paradox of this innocent, unsanctioned act of divine delight being carried out between two buildings that would one day be so viciously and murderously destroyed — are hard to ignore, particularly in a novel so concerned with the twin themes of love and loss … It is a heartbreaking book, but not a depressing one. Through their anguish, McCann’s characters manage to find comfort, even a kind of redemption.
By focusing the book and its characters through a single summer's day in 1974, the day a French tightrope-walker crossed a wire suspended between the World Trade Center buildings, the Irish writer Colum McCann offers us a glimpse into our collective past … These two women, Claire and Gloria, mirror each other like the twin towers that function as the central image of the book. As Philippe Petit managed to cross the divide between the World Trade Center buildings one summer day, these women traverse the great divides of race and class to become friends.