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Irish author's book to help Newtown survivors overcome grief

70 copies of Colum McCann’s ‘Let The Great World Spin’ have been given to staff and students at Newtown, Connecticut.

Colum McCann poses with his book 'Let the Great World Spin' after winning the Literary Award at the 35th American Film Festival in Normandy, France, in 2009.
Colum McCann poses with his book 'Let the Great World Spin' after winning the Literary Award at the 35th American Film Festival in Normandy, France, in 2009.
Image: MICHEL SPINGLER/AP

A NOVEL by Irish author Colum McCann has been selected to help surviving students overcome the grief and trauma they suffered after a gunman killed 20 children and six adults in one of the worst school massacres in US history.

McCann said the selection of his novel ‘Let the Great World Spin’ by teachers and psychologists in Newtown, Connecticut, where the December 14 killings took place, was “possibly the greatest honour of my life.”

“It was so moving,” he told AFP while passing through Paris ahead of the release in France of his latest book “Transatlantic”.

The novel, which in 2009 won the National Book Award in the United States, revolves around French acrobat Philippe Petit’s crossing on a tight-rope between the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center in New York City in 1974.

With the backdrop of the 2001 attacks which would kill thousands of people in that same symbolic place a quarter of a century later, McCann builds a story that centres on people’s ability to find meaning and how to handle great losses in life.

McCann said 70 copies of the book had been given to the high school and he described the emotions when he met with four classes of students aged between 16 and 18.

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“Some of them had a small sister or brother killed last December,” he said. “Another one was the babysitter of a victim. We spoke about grief and resilience. One of them told me he read my novel four times, another one that he couldn’t.”

Aside from the novel, the author also said therapy dogs have been brought in to the school as therapy for the traumatised children.

- © AFP, 2013

Read: Four days after massacre, children return to school in Newtown

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