Thursday, March 10, 2011

REVIEW: Tinkers, by Paul Harding

Tinkers, by Paul Harding. Published 2009 by Bellevue Literary Press.

It took me a million years to get around to reading Tinkers, the Pulitzer-Prize-winning novel by New England author Paul Harding. It was worth the wait.

A quiet and deeply lyrical story of loss, isolation and missed connections, Tinkers is a little treasure. The story follows the life and death of George Washington Crosby, a Maine man whose father Howard left the family after an epileptic seizure. Howard leaves because he is ashamed of having hurt his family (he attacked George during the seizure) and  his wife, a hard woman, wants to institutionalize him. Now, as George lay dying, the reader sees both his inner life and Howard's too.

Harding documents the Crosbys' hardscrabble life in rural Maine and even briefly alights on Howard's own father. What emerges is a heartbreaking and exquisitely crafted interlocking family story which goes back and forth in time, alternating perspectives. George is a clock repairman and there is something of a slow tick in the way the narrative unfolds.

The tone of the story is similar to another recent Pulitizer winner, Elizabeth Strout's Olive Kitteridge, also a New England book. If you enjoyed Olive Kitteridge I would urge you to read Tinkers. This beautiful, spare novel should find its way into the hands of every reader of literary fiction. A lot of craft went into the creation of this story and it will reward the slow and careful reader. It's atmospheric and dense, with well-rendered local color and detail; you can almost hear the snow crunch under your feet as you turn the pages. Tinkers is a very special little book.

Rating: BUY

Tinkers
by Paul Harding
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FTC Disclosure: I did not receive this book for review.