“And as the ax bites into the wood, be comforted in the fact that the ache in your heart and the confusion in your soul means that you are still alive, still human, and still open to the beauty of the world, even though you have done nothing to deserve it. And when you resent the ache in your heart, remember: You will be dead and buried soon enough.”
-Paul Harding, Tinkers
Eight days before his death, George Washington Crosby begins to hallucinate as he rests in the hospital bed set up for him in his own living room, amongst all the material objects and family he has acquired in his long life. He thinks about the house that he built himself crashing down upon him where he is paralyzed by the dying process; he hears things that his family whispers in other rooms; he recounts times and places of his childhood; he remembers the workings of various clocks he fixed over the years. George Crosby lies dying, and he remembers his father. He thinks of his parents, their marriage, his mother’s unhappiness, and his own father’s illness and heartache at a young age.
Paul Harding’s 2010 Pulitzer Prize winning novel, Tinkers, explores the chasm between life and death. Harding reaches into the soul of a dying man to show us the intricacies of life, love, family, and time. Through memories of his own, and of his father, George Crosby straddles the line of the living and brings us into the world of a man whose last hours are spent recalling the repressed and unsaid throughout lives and generations. We are privy to memories of people and places that can only be brought out when time is slipping from the grasp of the hands of the living.
Harding’s writing style is not for the casual reader. This challenging novel may require you to pull out the dictionary, or revert back to your analytical English class days. Worth the read and the thought; a journey through the metaphysical fade-out of life.