"this isn't a thriller; it is simply an attempt - doomed, perhaps - to describe the indescribable."
For those of you like me who never visited Manhattan prior to 9/11 (I had a sweet 16 trip planned for my birthday on September 13th, 2001, which was obviously postponed) the Windows on the World was the restaurant that sat atop the 107th story of the north tower. After Flight 11 hit the north tower, those who were in the restaurant survived the impact, but all eventually died. Beigbeder's novel Windows of the World is the fictional account of a father and his two sons who became trapped in the restaurant of the twin towers after the attacks commenced.
As you can probably guess, this novel was truly heartbreaking and incredibly moving. No one trapped above the crash site survived so at its center, this is a story about death. I decided to pick it up shortly before Christmas and wouldn't you know, it was the first book I read all year that made me cry. Aside from the poignant subject matter, Beigebeder structures the novel to emphasize the heartbreaking and catastrophic details of that tragic morning; each chapter represents one minute beginning at 8:30am and finishes when the tower falls at 10:29am. Each chapter alternates between the story of the family trapped inside the tower and the point of view of an unnamed French author, ruminating about the nature of America, childhood, 9/11, and the role of a writer. By weaving these two stories together, not only does The Windows of the World memorialize the thousands of lives lost on that tragic day, but it also reflects on what it means to be an American, both pre and post 9/11, and what it means to be human. It explores themes of love and redemption; what we may do differently when faced with death and what becomes important when the end of your life is imminent.
What I wanted to tell my sons was that you should never stay with someone you don't love; that you should only be faithful to love and love alone; that you should tell society to piss off as often as possible.The novel as a whole is bizarre and disjointed (as many post-modernist French novels are), but also incredibly powerful and unique. Though certain passages are perhaps brash, self-indulgent, and controversial, the novel is captivating and incredibly philosophical. It will have you reflecting on your own life and the nature of literature itself.
Publisher: Miramax Books, 2004
A big thanks to my friend Ben for gifting this book to me.