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
Powells.com

I'm a Powell's partner and receive a small commission on sales.

FTC Disclosure: I did not receive this book for review.

18 comments:

Mystica said...

Thank you for a review that makes you want to go out and just find this book.

Zibilee said...

You know Marie, I have read a lot of reviews on this book, but yours is the first that has made me want to add this to my wish list. Something about the way you describe it, and your reactions to it has me very intrigued. Thanks for the very enticing review!

rhapsodyinbooks said...

I love atmospheric books, but the "heartbreaking" part doesn't appeal to me. I have to be in a particular mood to take that kind of a story! Nicely reviewed as always!

Connolly-Ahern (Col Reads) said...

Sounds great. My family had a home in Down East Maine for years. I will definitely check it out!

Nana Fredua-Agyeman said...

Thanks. I have added it to my wishlist.

mynovelreviews said...

I will be looking out for this one! I have seen it around but never felt drawn to pick it up - now I will.

Rayna Eliana said...

Thank you for the great review.trafts

Pat Z. said...

I have read this book several times as it is magical. The characters are so well developed and engaging. The details of clock making & fixing just lend a timelessness to the piece. After your review, I think it is time for another reread.

Sandy Nawrot said...

I am a self-proclaimed Pulitzer idiot. I don't seem to do well with big prize winners, and I blame myself completely. I think maybe I'm not smart enough to get the subtle themes. But I think this is a short novel, so there isn't much to lose. I guess I should try the old Pulitzer ONE MORE TIME!

Jeanne said...

Hmm, I liked Olive Kitteridge because she was a woman, and I trust your point of view, but I'm quite reluctant to read anything about an old NE man. Maybe it was Updike, but I don't like to be inside old men's heads much.

pburt said...

Beautiful review - and it is amazing that it is the author's first book. I heard his second book might be about some of the characters in Tinkers. Have you heard anything?

Kathleen said...

I've been meaning to read this one but your review has confirmed for me that I need peace and quiet when I do. This just isn't a book I want to read with distractions around me. I'm saving this for vacation.

Aths said...

I so want to read this one! I've heard so many good things about this book!

diaryofaneccentric said...

I hadn't heard of this book until your review. Sounds worth checking out.

Audra said...

Thanks for the lovely review -- I'd forgotten I wanted to read this one!

Rebecca Reid said...

I have been reading less and less modern stuff but when this one was in the news and on all the displays I kept being drawn to it because the book was this perfect size. I know, so superficial of me!

I'm glad it's worth the read. I really do need to read the recent Pulitzer winners, I'm a bit out of the loop lately, which is okay, but some day it needs to be remedied.

What Book Today said...

Reading this now. It's just so wonderful. I second your directive to buy!

Jill McDonough said...

Hi, everyone! I'm Jill McDonough, and I run 24PearlStreet, the Fine Arts Work Center online. And Paul Harding is teaching a class for us, online, starting April 30: it’s called “Ah, Perfection.” Here's a course description and link:

Perfection is pretty much impossible to achieve for our stories and novels. But it can be a great ideal against which to measure our work, according to which we discipline our prose. Instead of trying to second guess things like “what an editor wants” or “what sells” or “what this or that reader wants,” or anything practical like that at all, let’s take a week and assess a piece of writing according to its value purely as a work of art. That is, let’s take a page from Keats and just think about the truth and beauty of what we’re writing, to the most vigorous, humble, and sophisticated degree we can muster. Instead of looking outward for positive signs, let’s go as deeply as we can into both the writing and our own sense of things, in order to find the (probably mysterious, hopefully irreducible) source – the heart - of the story, the chapter, the scene. Let’s take a week off from the worldly matters of writing and do some art for art’s sake.

http://fawc.org/24pearlstreet/workshops.php?filter=01#Paul

Let me know if you have any ideas, or questions—and thanks so much for your time!

take care--

Jill
jmcdonough@fawc.org
http://fawc.org/24pearlstreet/index.php