Hailed as "a masterpiece" (NPR), Tinkers, Paul Harding’s Pulitzer Prize-winning debut, is a modern classic. The Dallas Morning News observed that "like Faulkner, Harding never shies away from describing what seems impossible to put into words". Here, in Enon, Harding follows a year in the life of Charlie Crosby as he tries to come to terms with a shattering personal tragedy. Grandson of George Crosby (the protagonist of Tinkers), Charlie inhabits the same dynamic landscape of New England, its seasons mirroring his turbulent emotional odyssey. Along the way, Charlie’s encounters are brought to life by his wit, his insights into history, and his yearning to understand the big questions. A stunning mosaic of human experience, Enon affirms Paul Harding as one of the most gifted and profound writers of his generation.
©2013 Paul Harding (P)2013 Random House Audio
“Drawing upon the same New England landscape and family as his Pulitzer Prize–winning debut, Tinkers, Harding deftly captures loss and its consequences in this gorgeous and haunting follow-up. [Enon is] an elegiac portrait of a severed family and the town of Enon itself, and Harding again proves himself a contemporary master and one of our most important writers.”—Publishers Weekly
"There are few perfect debut American novels. Walter Percy's The Moviegoer and Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird come to mind. So does Marilynne Robinson's Housekeeping. To this list ought to be added Paul Harding's devastating first book, Tinkers.... Harding has written a masterpiece." (NPR on Tinkers)
"Like Faulkner, Harding never shies away from describing what seems impossible to put into words." (The Dallas Morning News on Tinkers)
As the other reviewers have shared, this book is more of a contemplative exploration on grief and loss, than a story in the conventional sense. Harding's writing is elegant and throughly crafted with layers of detail, as he gradually progresses deeper and deeper into his own dark places, which match the dark woods near Enon, his home.
I would compare this to Joyce Carol Oates' treatment of grief in her book "A Widow's Story", which focuses more on the details and nuances of her daily life as does Harding, but her focus is more at a distance, as though she is an outsider, observing her own recovery, and recording her days as she experiences them. She certainly has plenty of "stuff" to fill her life - friends, family, a job at the top of her field, but even with all this, she is reduced to the same questions - now that the loved one is gone, what is life's meaning and how do we interpret its lessons?
Enon shows us how a a seemingly well-constructed life can implode by a single devastating loss, and how precarious are our attachments. One day it's all hanging together for Charlie, the next day his daughter is dead and his wife is gone. There certainly is no "resolution" in the conventional sense, not for this reader, anyway. I read the book twice and was twice led to the conclusion that Charlie had reached a conditional accommodation to his condition, was taking some steps to rebuild, but was certainly not yet emotionally solvent. Letting go of his dependency on prescription drugs was a start.
I applaud Harding for not turning Charlie's story into an archetypal "hero's quest" for redemption. Instead it's a realistic account of what's left to work with, and using that to restart, after all our life-sustaining resources seem to be gone.
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