Book Review: Tinkers – Paul Harding


tinkTinkers was a gift from my mother for my half birthday and, it turns out, a gift from Mr. Harding as well.

The novel begins: “George Washington Crosby began to hallucinate eight days before he died.” While the story is told from the viewpoint of George on his deathbed, it weaves in and out of time, from the story of his epileptic father, whose seizures are proceeded by the feeling and taste of lightening, to George’s minister grandfather and through some of George’s childhood memories.

I finished this book only an hour ago and immediately went to read reviews of it. I was surprised to see that, despite having won the 2010 Pulitzer, it had mostly mediocre reviews on Amazon. Most of the complaints were that ‘nothing every happened’ and ‘there was no plot’.

Both are true, but that’s what made this story so beautiful. It wasn’t a story that felt crafted by an author, though the prose was lyrical and delicious. It wasn’t complicated. It wasn’t a story of what happens to people. It wasn’t even a story of who those people were. It was simply a story of what people choose to do with what’s given to them.

George’s father was a small time door to door salesman, traveling via a horse and buggy. Much of the story was the recounting of things that once were fixed, that we are now quick to discard. Clocks, clothing, furniture… things that are now considered disposable that once were worth mending.

Though, during the same time frame that we’re following George’s father helping to mend the broken possessions of his neighbors and customers, his father was himself thrown away. As he aged and his seizures became more violent and severe, the only thing to be done with him was to send him to a home for the criminally insane.

I really don’t know how to put into words what I learned from this book or what I thought about it. For me, reading this book was an experience. It touched me more deeply than anything I’ve read in a long time. This is a book that deserves being re-read, and I have every intention of doing so.

From a review by Elizabeth McCracken: “Paul Harding’s Tinkers is not just a novel – though it is a brilliant novel. It’s an instruction manual on how to look at nearly everything.”

Currently reading: The Plot Against America – Philip Roth

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