Tinkers has been on my TBR shelf for quite some time. It’s a small tomb that can easily get lost amid the myriad hardback giants. What it lacks in size, however, it makes up for in emotional depth. In spades. Harding’s novel won the Pulitzer Prize back in 2010 and for very good reason.
George Crosby is an 80-year-old man dying. He’s propped up in a rented hospital bed in his living room surrounded by all his family holding vigil while he slowly slips closer to death. His mind is afire, though. Memories are flooding this quiet process taking the reader back to his childhood growing up in New England. His relationship with his father is particularly highlighted and the events that led up to his father’s abandonment of the family. These coherent images weave in and out with random flashes of nature, clocks, and even the occasional bird’s nest building.
Oh, Tinkers. Your long, winding sentences and vivid imagery had me before I had even turned to page two. Harding’s writing impressed me so thoroughly that I’m now willing to read anything and everything he may ever write. A specific images remains with me – almost haunting me – of George’s daughter trying to get water into her very dehydrated father who is struggling with one of the most basic needs of the living. Then to learn that she spent the next two years watering the flowers on his grave to the point of drowning them each and every day gutted me. I’ll hold on to this image of grief for a long, long time.
The symbolism, I admit, feels a tiny bit heavy-handed. The ticking clocks and gears turning seem a bit too obvious for this quiet novel, but I’ll forgive Harding this slight hiccup. I much preferred the subtle seasonal overtones expressed through the natural scenes that Harding paints with this words.
Tinkers is a short novel meant to be slowly absorbed rather than sped through. I didn’t really obey that as I read the 200 pages in 2 days. It’s a book that deserves many re-readings, especially as I grow older and near that eventuality called mortality.