TINKERS By Paul Harding [Review]

tinkers book

Paul Harding is like Cormac McCarthy and William H. Goyen rolled into one–he’s both poetic and charming at creating a gothic reminiscent narrative. He writes intelligently, with each word serving an essential purpose in how the plot moves forward; at 192 pages, there’s no room to be superfluous. It comes as no surprise that the novel won the Pulitzer Prize; it’s one of those books that makes you sound crazy if you don’t like it.

But I have to say, I didn’t like it.

TINKERS is about George Washington Crosby, a cancerous old man who lies on his hospital deathbed in the living room of his clock-filled house. As he lies there, memories of his father–an epileptic door-to-door salesman–surfaces and he lives out his last days with his father figuratively at his side.

I find the plotline a tad cliche. It is, after all, a book about dying that’s told using the clock analogy, and I couldn’t help but imagine exaggerate movie scenes with the bomb that’s ticking away or clock running out of time before someone falls to a perilous death. I also feel like the book is clouded with symbolism so much so that the story loses impact.

Tinkers has to be read as intentionally as it was written in order to get the full effect of the writing. It’s a book that needs to be analyzed and each paragraph pondered over. In this way, it will make a great literary addition to the reading lists of schools and universities; but, as an everyday read, I find it mentally draining. The story is told not in rising action and a moving plot, but in the stream of consciousness that becomes the almost lifeless Crosby. Yet, the words are so eloquent and the depictions of Maine are so concrete I sometimes feel as if I’m also walking along with Howard Crosby as he sales his wares or sitting next to George as he lay dying. In short, Paul Harding is an excellent write, but I don’t find him that great of a storyteller.

I just hope my former English teacher doesn’t think any less of me.

Rating: 2 out of 5 stars | Publisher: Bellevue Literary Press | Pages: 192 | Source: Purchased | Buy on Amazon

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