I was absolutely head over heels in love with this book.......until the last chapter. Why, why, why did Colum McCann have to put a "happy/hopeful" ending on it? Is it that he thinks this is what the public wants? Well, not me. Definitely this would have gotten five stars if only that last chapter were absent. End it any way but this! That is my sole complaint. Four stars, not five! My heart wants to give this five anyhow.
I am going to give you a quote:
He played so bad. It sounded terrible, man. It was awful, right? But it was beautiful too. And he sang this song, which was a blues song, which didn't go well with no fiddle and it goes: Lord, I am so low down, I think I am looking up at down. We were so happy sitting on the stoop that we went changed the words, and we was singing: Lord, I am so high up I believe I'm looking down at up. Cars go by. We even heard some gun shots far down the street, but we don't pay no mind. Which is one of the things I always do find myself thinking about, looking down at up and looking up at down. I never heard nicer than that. ( chapter 14)
Me too, I never heard nicer than that!
Also in chapter 14 one finds:
It's the little things break your heart.
And the little things that make you so happy too. That is my addition, but I am sure McCann will agree. Why am I sure? Because sometimes the flight of birds or sunlight in patches are loved by his down and out characters too. Small things are central to what makes us happy. This book is about those people who have less than nothing. The homeless poor of NYC during the first half of the 20th Century. You follow one family, through two threads until they finally meet up and you understand who is who and who each of these people really is in 1991. You get depth of character. Now if you cannot or do not care to feel empathy for the lowest of low please pick another book.
All my GR friends know how I shy away from romance and love. THIS book has love and sex. This book is one of those exceptional ones that portray it well. I totally enjoyed chapter 13. Love is portrayed between men and women, between friends, even the love one feels for a pet is here. There is aberrant sexual attraction too. All these different love emotions were wonderfully depicted with depth and insight.
I will read anything by this author. I will be reading every single thing he has written. I have no favorite authors except now Colum McCann and maybe Alexandra Fuller.
I listened to the audiobook narrated by Joe Barrett. His voice, the pitch, the tone, the intonations were absolutely perfect for the story's characters. Both the men and the women.
It will make me very sad if I hear that others do not appreciate this book, so please let me warn away those who want a comforting cute read about ordinary people. Are you strong enough to look honestly at how some people live? And can you have compassion for them? Just read something else if you don't want to do that. I don't want to hear whining and complaints about a book I absolutely love.
In chapter four:
GR ate my message. Second try.... I LOVE how McCann draws a picture, creates people and puts you the reader there in that place which is totally foreign, be it a homeless person's "room" balanced on some beams high up in a tunnel under the Hudson River or in the first NYC subway station created by Alfred Ely Beach. Here are the historical facts: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Beach_Pneumatic_Transit But to see this station deep under the ground you have to read the book. There is a fountain, beautiful tiles and frescoes and even a piano! When? In 1870 or the 60s. I feel the ice on the bum's beard. I hear the crunch of snow as he walks. I love McCann's writing!
After three chapters:
How does this author do it? He puts me in environments completely foreign to me surrounded by people also foreign, and yet I understand the people and feel the place perfectly. And the dialogs, how does he capture the genuine feel of them? This is crazy; I like testing new authors, not reading ones I have read before, except Colum McCann!