An Irish monk, John Corrigan, lives in the Bronx and concentrates his saintly impulses on improving the lives of hookers and nursing home patients. Despite his vow of chastity, he falls in love with a Guatemalan nurse.
Judge Solomon Soderberg sees Petit's wire-walk and wants him prosecuted in his courtroom. In order to hurry to Petit's case, he gives short shrift to the case of two prostitutes, friends of John Corrigan's, mother Tillie and her daughter Jazzlyn. Soderberg lets Jazzlyn off but sends Tillie to jail. As Corrigan drives Jazzlyn back to the Bronx, they get in a terrible car accident, their van clipped by a car driven by a wannabe artist, Blaine. Blaine's wife Lara is in the car, too. Lara feels terribly guilty, and later seeks out Corrigan's brother Ciaran to make amends.
Other characters include Judge Soderberg's wife Claire, who mourns their son, killed in Viet Nam. And in Claire's grief group is Gloria, an African-American woman who also mourns her two sons, and who lives in the same building in the Bronx where Corrigan lived.
I won't go further into the plot, except to say that McCann elegantly weaves together the stories of his characters and has the mysterious forces of fate bring them together to experience both grief and redemption.
I was charmed at the outset by McCann's lyrical writing style in the very first few pages of the story--a beautiful description of the setting of Petit's wire-walk. Beautiful writing goes a long way with me, but this book has more. It has an elegant plot, woven together out of the stories of several characters. Some of the characters interested me more than others, but I found most of them engaging, and was always drawn in by putting the puzzle pieces of their relationships together.
My book group really enjoyed this novel, too. I'll look out for more of McCann's work.