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Publisher's Summary

Pulitzer Prize, Fiction, 2010

An old man lies dying. Confined to bed in his living room, he sees the walls around him begin to collapse, the windows come loose from their sashes, and the ceiling plaster fall off in great chunks, showering him with a lifetime of debris: newspaper clippings, old photographs, wool jackets, rusty tools, and the mangled brass works of antique clocks. Soon, the clouds from the sky above plummet down on top of him, followed by the stars, till the black night covers him like a shroud. He is hallucinating, in death throes from cancer and kidney failure.

A methodical repairer of clocks, he is now finally released from the usual constraints of time and memory to rejoin his father, an epileptic, itinerant peddler, whom he had lost seven decades before. In his return to the wonder and pain of his impoverished childhood in the backwoods of Maine, he recovers a natural world that is at once indifferent to man and inseparable from him, menacing and awe inspiring.

Tinkers is about the legacy of consciousness and the porousness of identity from one generation the next. At once heartbreaking and life affirming, it is an elegiac meditation on love, loss, and the fierce beauty of nature.

©2009 Paul Harding (P)2008 Audible, Inc.

Critic Reviews

"An outstanding debut.... The real star is Harding's language, which dazzles whether he's describing the workings of clocks, sensory images of nature, the many engaging side characters who populate the book, or even a short passage on how to build a bird nest. This is an especially gorgeous example of novelistic craftsmanship." ( Publishers Weekly)
"This compact, adamantine debut dips in and out of the consciousness of a New England patriarch named George Washington Crosby as he lies dying on a hospital bed in his living room.... In Harding's skillful evocation, Crosby's life, seen from its final moments, becomes a mosaic of memories, 'showing him a different self every time he tried to make an assessment.'" ( The New Yorker)

What listeners say about Tinkers

Average Customer Ratings
Overall
  • 3.5 out of 5 stars
  • 5 Stars
    99
  • 4 Stars
    109
  • 3 Stars
    113
  • 2 Stars
    76
  • 1 Stars
    47
Performance
  • 3.5 out of 5 stars
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    90
  • 4 Stars
    81
  • 3 Stars
    63
  • 2 Stars
    20
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    26
Story
  • 3.5 out of 5 stars
  • 5 Stars
    75
  • 4 Stars
    67
  • 3 Stars
    70
  • 2 Stars
    42
  • 1 Stars
    34

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

Unique but valuable read

I am glad I read this book, despite some of the posted reviews. True, the book is not "action" as some award books are. It is a psychological piece dealing with secrets, families and the passage of time.


The book is best read as a multi-genre "experience," and it has aspects of fiction, poetry and creative nonfiction. It also employs occasional stream of consciousness and shifting characters. I read the book hard copy as I listened, which helped. This could be a confusing book to "get" if you only have the audio file.


But the book is dreamy and intense, and reveals about human relationships by portraying them as foggy and obscure. A sad book overall, but optimistic, too. I liked it.

9 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

Breath Taking

I had no preconceptions when I ordered Tinkers. My wife's book club selected it and in my ongoing effort to be a supportive husband I decided to "read" along. (If I had known the book's premise, I wouldn't have touched it with a ten foot pole. A book about a dieing man? Never.)

I was immediately taken by the poetry laced through out the narrative. The master of the well-turned phrase, John Updike, came to mind in light of the extordinary richness and color of the language in Tinkers.

Slowly I became increasingly interested in the odd assortment of characters. By the book's conclusion I was swept away by what is certainly the best work of fiction I have "read" in years.

Whether you have read Tinkers already or not, if you have not listened to it being read you have missed part of its enchantment. Close your eyes and let the stream of beautiful sentences flow over you.

In case you are wondering, I borrowed my wife's copy of Tinkers after her book club and read it through in one setting. Another wonderful, but less sensual experience.

16 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    1 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Hard to follow the audio

This is a spectacular, beautiful book but Rummel (the narrator) reads too quickly! I had to go back and read it in print to get the full impact of Harding's gorgeous language. The only way I could listen to this audiobook was to play it at 1/2 speed. I highly recommend the novel but not the audio.

6 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    2 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    2 out of 5 stars

Just... Couldn't... Finish... ugh...

I've been enjoying reading Pulitzer winning fiction for years. As I've begun to listen to more books I recently tried and loved A Visit From the Goon Squad (prior to its Pulitzer win) and gave five stars to Empire Falls which was a 20 hour book.
For a break I figured I'd give Tinkers a try as a shorter listen. What a disappointment. Unlike powerful (relatively) shorter books like Toni Morrison's Beloved, Tinkers grated on my nerves from the very beginning.
Professional reviews touted the detail of such tasks as watch repair which I found to be eloquent (for a watch repair manual) but incredibly boring in a novel. Proulx's The Shipping News contains a scene which describes the construction of a boat in detail as an integral part of the story after we're invested in the characters. In Tinkers however, the detailed clock repair scene made me want to drive into a tree. Any time the story even hinted at the prospect of another journey down the clock repair path I could only grit my teeth.
The trek in Tinkers felt contrived to me unlike Cold Mountain which was a sequence of adventures within a larger plot. I had no interest in the main characters nor the sub-characters who often felt forced into the story to me.
In the end I just couldn't finish the book and clicked it off with little reservation. As a concession for my bailing out I gave it a second star. Maybe it improved but I just couldn't give it that chance. Life is just too short.

12 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars

better than I expected

Where does Tinkers rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?
I'm not sure where to rank it. Not at the top, but certainly not near the bottom. It's a different kind of novel.

Who was your favorite character and why?
I liked Howard the best. The sections with Howard driving the cart and his mule, Prince Albert, pulling it were the most interesting.

What does Christian Rummel bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?
Rummel does a great job of reading. I really have no complaints. The narration is on par with the story.

If you could take any character from Tinkers out to dinner, who would it be and why?
Prince Albert, the mule, because that would surely be something to see.

Any additional comments?
This novel is for those who like description and enjoy the beauty of language. Don't get me wrong, there's a story here, and the author does a good job of telling it. It's not a long recording, and it's worth the time.

7 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars

Decent, but...

No structure. Enjoyable characters and a very emotional ending. I, however, am skeptical this novel would not have been better without some serious planning and perhaps another voice in the room. As it stands, it requires alot of patience, even for a novella-length story. Recommended, but not for everyone.

7 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars

Beautifully written

This is a very good story, and the writing is fabulous. I was surprised that the other reviews complained about the language getting in the way of the story. I personally do not understand or care for poetry, but this book's style is very melodic(?) and really puts your imagination to work. The story is strong, and the descriptions are vivid. I really enjoyed this book and highly recommend it.

11 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    2 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars

Where has this book been hiding?

A great story with an important message; unfortunately, the narrator had a very unpleasant manner--he reads in a choppy way that is unsettling on the ears.

4 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars

Annoying and pretentious

This book has some problems. While the premise for the story is that a man is dying and therefore everything that follows is a hallucination, this may serve more as an excuse for strained and exaggerated writing that quickly becomes annoying. "Tinkers" is a convoluted series of episodes reaching back in time to the grandfather and father (as a young boy, and later as an adult) of the main character. It is a lot of sound and fury, eventually signifying very little. I found myself not caring about any of these characters and their overwrought problems - again the language got in the way of any character development. The point of view shifts from first person to third person, throughout, the language is overblown and affected. The audio narration is expressive and fairly well done, with the exception of the performer's attempt at women's voices -- most of them sounding like drag queens. I cannot recommend this audio book; it was frustrating and irritating to listen to and really had trouble just finding a story to tell.

I gave it 2 stars simply because the technical aspects of this production are good.

28 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

grief - an exploration

Tinkers is profound and moving, and for me was reminiscent of Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath and Caldwell's Tobacco Road. This is a book that touched my heart and made me remember my dad and my grandfather. It is all about love, loss, death and healing. It is a small, beautiful book which is contemplative, subtle and nuanced. The writing is spare and simple, and the characters are very real. The first lines of the book had me hooked immediately.

As the book opens we find ourselves in the living room of an old man at the end of his life. He is surrounded by his family and the clocks he tinkered with for most of his life. That scene alone had me hooked. The man begins a journey through his life. The fact that his body is no longer functioning and headed towards death enhanced the free exploration of memory and allowed me to feel more connected to this frail man. My own father laid in a similar bed at the end of his life, mostly asleep and nonverbal. I wonder what journey he took through time? I hope it was enriching, curative and joyous, and that even some of the sad memories were redeeming.

The strength of this book is its use of the unreliability of memory. George Crosby was a watchmaker and handyman, he revisits his childhood in Maine and his father Howard, who left the family when George was still a child. Howard suffered from epilepsy at a time when most people didn't understand that it wasn't a mental illness. George's mother hid the affliction from the family until one night when he suffered a seizure at the dinner table. George was needed to help and ended up suffering a horrible bite where his hand was damaged. After this George's mom made the agonizing decision to have Howard placed in the asylum, but Howard knew the plan and disappeared instead. Howard's own father disappeared. He was suffering from some sort of mental break or dementia, and before his family could hospitalize him he left.

The book is focused and poignant. It takes place in the memories of a man who is living the last eight days of his life. And the meandering nature of his memories beautifully demonstrates the delicacy of life, love, connection, and death. We don't have control over these things. We can only wander and wonder and appreciate and remember.

The end came too quickly in this book. George passed and his family was left to grieve, just like my dad passed and left me to grieve. Thankfully I find him again when I find books like this gem by Paul Harding.

1 person found this helpful