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Great World Spinning

Updated on August 6, 2015

The Great World Spinning

In Let the Great World Spin we the readers become introduced to characters that we can relate to, sympathize with or become wonderfully curious about how their life will turn out. One of the characters, Claire is fascinating because she is going through this maddening grief that her character is in this manic state. She has a way of being self conscience about what the other women in her support group will think of her. She still lives a pretentious life and yet wishes somehow that her home won’t make the other women uncomfortable. She is all over the place really, keeping herself occupied until they get there but her mind is always going back to her son. She, herself, is constantly spinning around trying to just stay occupied and yet can’t stay focused on any one task.

There is a saying the unexamined life is not worth living, well Claire reexamines so much that she says, “The over examined life, Claire, it’s not worth living” (McCann 79). She really behaves a little selfishly when it comes to this support group, when it comes to her son. These women come to her home and after wanting to hear Marcia’s story is done with it and wants to move on. It hits her though when Marcia says she didn’t hear that he had fallen to his death but that if he was alive it couldn’t really be her son. “They all fall in line and it feels right, it’s what she wants to say...” (109) Of course the grief is talking to this poor woman because for a while she says it was her son coming down to see her. That was what triggered Claire to fall into herself, to become so involved in what was happening in her, to pay attention to the other women talking.

Claire needed someone she felt close to in the group and she looks to Gloria as someone she could perhaps confide in. Gloria in a way comes to her like a beacon of hope and she watches Claire and knows what the other women think of her. They put on this show of understanding when really they just make fun of her through it all. But then making fun of the painting of Solomon and especially that slip up of Clarie telling Gloria she’ll pay her to stay. “‘You know, I’d be happy to pay you, Gloria”’ (299). Which of course offends and perhaps scares her a little. She suddenly doesn’t understand this woman who is suffering from manic depression. Claire had tried so hard to make a good impression without seeming pompous. But she takes the women into her son’s room and starts talking and talking and talking that these women are so bored out of their minds they start to nod off. Claire is so involved in her stories and nostalgia she can’t even tell. Even Gloria, asks to be excused when it was becoming all too much. Gloria saw what Claire didn’t in the other women. When given the opportunity as soon as Claire is distracted that's when it was time to go home. The women were really there to see Claire’s home, and can’t help themselves but make fun of it all. An interesting thing about Gloria is that she doesn’t talk about her son nearly as much as the other women describe their experiences. Although none seemed to have talked so much more than Claire. And Gloria was certainly hurting. But she maintained her grief in a different way. When Gloria took in Jazzlyn’s two girls she also provided Claire an opportunity to see that there were ways to put that grief into something else, and that was something that they shared.

Claire lives day to day, yes on her own tightrope because she has to keep herself as steady as possible or she might lose it and fall. She is walking on eggshells. At least that's the way she appears. She is suffering from some serious depression, having lost her only child. For any mother losing a child has to be the worst pain they will ever have. She could fall off that tightrope she had worked so hard on alluding people with because she is far from okay. and might never have truly been the same. But when Gloria took in those girls it was this light, this beacon of promise that there is still a chance to continue. “She looked frightened and happy both” (322). It can never replace her son, but it can replace her grief.

“He felt for a moment uncreated. Another kind of awake” (164). Claire is teetering on her tightrope and at any moment she could fall off if she isn’t careful and she almost does. That manic depression of hers is not allowing her to see the bigger picture of life and how could it? The loss of a child is a pain no parent should endure, but the moment Gloria takes in those two girls she begins to regain her balance. She was moving forward without allowing her to become in sync with all around her. It was as if everything stopped but it doesn’t stop. Not even for a moment, because the world keeps spinning.

Lara is another character in this novel that is having a hard time dealing with a lot of issues. She was in the car when her husband hit Corrigan’s car and they left. She felt all this guilt of leaving the scene of the accident and couldn’t come to terms. “This is not my life. These are not my cobwebs. This is not my darkness.” (121) She was watching her husband use drugs to forget they had killed two people. She was examining her life and the way it was. She and her husband had been on this path of destruction and had come out of it struggling and this was only the cherry on top. Her husband was never going to change and until the accident happened she didn’t truly know his character. “-She was in a pool of blood, Blaine. -Not my fault” (121). He had no care for human life. They are two different people who dealt with the situation very differently and she almost seems too good for Blaine. And when she goes to visit Ciaran at Corrigan’s place she knows what she’s doing is ‘unpardonable’ but she had his things and they needed to be returned.


She meets up with Ciaran, who is Corrigan’s brother. She has this need to understand who he was and what his life was like, and who the woman was in the car with him. Of course Ciaran is still grieving over the loss of his brother. She drives him back to the projects but he sees the damaged light and he knows. “This is the car, isn’t it?” (150) She even tried to take the blame for the accident, feeling the weight of the responsibility of what she and her husband had done. How Ciaran and Lara ended up becoming married at the end of the novel isn’t entirely clear, but they did seem to have something of connection. Not even just the accident but there was something else there too, under the surface. She knew she wanted to start clean and he was that start. She would ask all these questions and wanted to know who his brother was and what kind of relationship they had. Perhaps he just wanted to talk about him anyways, needed that outlet to let someone know who his brother was. “What he liked about his brother, he said, is that he made people become what they didn’t think they could become.” (154)

Even though she didn’t actually interact with Tilly, she still bore witness to the spectacle of her grief. She had asked to be able to attend the funeral of Jazzlyn and she watched Tilly when she got there. She watched the torment of a mother as she screamed for her daughter's pimp to leave. The way she had wanted her daughter to live a different life than her but a part of her owning to guilt of having not protecting her better. She tells a story of how kind Corrigan was to Jazzlyn. “Everyday he had new things to say about that castle. That was their own little game, and Jazzlyn loved playing it, word.” (150)

Lara walked a tightrope every day she kept this secret to herself. She walked a tightrope every day she stayed married to Blaine. “He kept looking at me, like I might suddenly change, become the beauty he had once married.” (134) Unfortunately its as if she fell off the tightrope of marriage to Blaine and onto a new one with the secrecy and guilt of the accident. She began to suffer from depression and it didn’t help her husband was on this new kick, getting out of the twenties vibe and trying something different with the ruined paintings. She kept seeing Jazzlyn, even daydreamed a guy she went with in highschool and Jazzlyn behind him,

She was smiling at me and asking me why I had driven away, did I not want to talk to her, why didn’t I stop, come, come, please, did I not want to see the piece of metal that had ripped open her spine, and how about the pavement she had caressed at fifty miles per hour? (130)

“He paused there a moment, pulled the line tighter by the strength of his eyes.” (164) For Lara the accident was her ‘other kind of awake’. She was awakened to see things differently and perhaps matured her quite a bit. She didn’t want to be blamed for manslaughter but she couldn’t stand being guilty for the loss of two people. And when she met Ciaran she began to hope for a new life, “He was carrying his life from one side to the the other.” (164) Much like the tightrope walker and his strength and balance. It’s not until he’s walking that he becomes sure of himself and that is what Lara needs to face.

McCann, Colum. Let the Great World Spin. New York: Random House, 2009. Print.


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