Every year, Country Day high school students are assigned one required summer reading book. This summer, the book was “The Day The World Came to Town” by Jim DeFede.
In general, I have found the non-fiction genre to be uninteresting, and this book was no exception. I have only read a handful of non-fiction books — mostly biographies — and as with all of those, I was unable to engage with this book.
Aside from its slow pace, the book’s maze of characters had me flipping back and forth through pages trying to find them.
Sometimes when a book is too monotonous, using the audio version makes it easier to engage with. However, no matter how many times I put my headphones in and tried to listen, I found myself waking up to the book still playing hours later.
The book lasted a total of 4 hours, 20 minutes.
The book recounts the stories of many different passengers and the circumstances that placed them on one of the 38 flights redirected to Gander, Newfoundland, on Sept. 11, 2001.
On that day, all of the planes were headed to destinations located in the U.S.. Because of the disruption in U.S. and Canadian Airspace when the World Trade Center was hit by terrorist-invaded planes, all flights were ordered to land at their closest destination outside of the U.S. as soon as possible.
“The Day The World Came to Town” described the efforts of the people of Newfoundland who went out of their way to help complete strangers during the six days following 9/11. Even for nothing in exchange, the people of Newfoundland reassured the stranded passengers that there were still people in the world who would help, just for the sake of helping. The passengers’ hosts provided them with food, clothing and shelter.
Despite how interesting this premise sounds, the author’s writing style couldn’t keep me hooked — it felt like I was reading the script of a documentary. DeFede spent the first third of the book explaining the lives of the characters before 9/11, but there was nothing connecting these stories together until everyone actually met in Gander. It was at this point that the book’s story came to life. If it was not for 9/11 these people would never have met.
The non-linear plot was confusing and took too long for everyone’s stories to connect.
I also couldn’t identify with any of the characters. They were all adults who I have nothing in common with.
Two characters, Roxanne and Clarke Loper, were on a journey to adopt their second child from Kazakhstan, but it seemed unnecessary to know their whole background and life stories considering that the main plot occurred when everyone was gathered together in Newfoundland.
In short, the book needed a “main” character to center around. And the plot lacked interest. Nevertheless, this book did have some benefits. Even though I didn’t enjoy “The Day the World Came to Town,” it’s important for students to be challenged with reading different genres outside of their comfort zone. This one certainly challenged me.