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Publisher's Summary

In such acclaimed novels as Let the Great World Spin and TransAtlantic, National Book Award-winning author Colum McCann has transfixed listeners with his precision, tenderness, and authority. Now, in his first collection of short fiction in more than a decade, McCann charts the territory of chance and the profound and intimate consequences of even our smallest moments.

"As it was, it was like being set down in the best of poems, carried into a cold landscape, blindfolded, turned around, unblindfolded, forced, then, to invent new ways of seeing."

In the exuberant title novella, a retired judge reflects on his life's work, unaware as he goes about his daily routines that this particular morning will be his last. In "Sh'khol", a mother spending Christmas alone with her son confronts the unthinkable when he disappears while swimming off the coast near their home in Ireland. In "Treaty", an elderly nun catches a snippet of a news report in which it is revealed that the man who once kidnapped and brutalized her is alive, masquerading as an agent of peace. And in "What Time Is It Now, Where You Are?", a writer constructs a story about a Marine in Afghanistan calling home on New Year's Eve.

Deeply personal, subtly subversive, at times harrowing, and indeed funny, yet also full of comfort, Thirteen Ways of Looking is a striking achievement. With unsurpassed empathy for his characters and their inner lives, Colum McCann forges from their stories a profound tribute to our search for meaning and grace. The collection is a rumination on the power of storytelling in a world where language and memory can sometimes falter but in the end do not fail us and a contemplation of the healing power of literature.

©2015 Colum McCann (P)2015 Random House Audio

What members say

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Euphonies, Heartrending and Profound


This is a mesmerizing collection of a novella and three short stories. Irish author Colum McCann's radiant prose seems the consummate soother of the ever-shuffling soul while his stories stir one's deepest sentiments: a child disappears overnight from his mother's bed at a seaside resort; a writer goes through the stop-and-go process of writing a short story on distant lovers; a nun faces her fears and resentments after seeing her South American captor/rapist on a televised "peace" press conference 30 years later; and, in the eponymous novella, an elderly, retired and widowed judge's stream of consciousness on the day of his murder brilliantly mixed with a third person narrative of the NYPD detectives' investigation.

A quite humorous and breezy sample from the novella -- the Judge's inner dialog describing his disappointment with his son Elliott:

“He took a trip ... up to ... Elliott's house, his mansion rather. Awful place, twelve bedrooms and swimming pool and media hall and five car garage, but cheap and shoddy all the same, like the one next door and next door to that. A row of Ikea houses, such wealthy mediocrity. His very own son. His big, bald son. Who could believe it. The bigness, the baldness, the stupidity. In a house designed to bore the daylight out of visitors, no character at all, all blonde wood and fluorescent lighting and clean white machinery.

Not to mention his brand new wife, number three, a clean white machine herself. Up from the cookie cutter and into Elliott's life, she might as well have jumped out of the microwave, her skin orange, her teeth pearly white. A trophy wife. But why the word 'trophy'? Something to shoot on a safari.”


The words, particularly as read by Colum McCann, flow over the soul as a north wind ripples a field of shamrocks. In writing this review I searched for an appropos term for a prose narrative that is as poetic and hypnotic as it is profound. One I found should do the trick: a "euphony" (pleasing to the ear, especially through a harmonious combination of words), with the descriptors "heartrending" and "profound."

6 of 7 people found this review helpful

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Fascinating and beautifully written

This novella and short stories have immediately become favorites of mine. The rhythmic style of writing is unique and the content fascinating.

Bkb

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars

My favorite writer

Colum McCann can span generations in a single paragraph and capture character and depth of emotion like no one else I've ever read. He's a master.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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To be listened to again and again and again.

To be listened to again and again and again.

My favorite book of the last 5 years is McCann's Let the Great World Spin. I love his work. Listen to McCann read Thirteen Ways of Looking is a pure treat!

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Dorothy
  • Allentown, PA, United States
  • 04-07-18

The title story is a masterpiece

McCann makes a reference to James Joyce’s story The Dead which has been called the greatest short story in English. I would say that Thirteen Ways of Looking is equally well written, equally perceptive and McCann’s reading makes it unforgettable. This is the only audiobook I’ve listened to twice and then bought the book so I could read it. It is a treasure.

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Observation of the Human Character

Would you consider the audio edition of Thirteen Ways of Looking to be better than the print version?

Listening to the stories as narrated by the author was a treat.

What was one of the most memorable moments of Thirteen Ways of Looking?

In each of his four stories, with each of his four protagonists, Colum McCann sets down a path for us to follow, and leads us to the discovery of their human character.

The last bit of the final story, Treaty, had me shaking so badly that I nearly pulled off to the side of the road. As the story unfolds, Mr. McCann ensures that I lay tracts in the passages of Beverly’s weighted resolve, and my visceral reaction is as stirring as anything I’ve experienced from any of the great writers.

What does Colum McCann bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

It feels like he is reading the narrative, in the same way that he experienced the characters as he wrote.

Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

I paused between each story.

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Love

Very interesting subjects, beautifully rendered. I also love his voice. Overall an excellent audiobook. Definitely worth a listen.

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  • W
  • 08-04-17

These stories matter.

These Colum McCann read stories had to be written; and needed to be read out loud. They and their author are a blessing you've been given. Listening - you will taste savory, sweet and sour. Scrumptious. Listen; let these glorious fictions awaken you. WM

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All excellent.

Tjamls to Audible I can listen to these stories ahaom amd again wjenever I want

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Unbelievably superb!

I bought this book because my book group choose it and was surprised when I couldn't stop listening. The writing is superior, the stories beautiful and moving, effectively capturing what it means to be human. Colum McCann as narrator was an excellent narrator, also. I'm now off to buy Let the Great World Spin.