Tinkers by Paul Harding
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
I think I want to read Tinkers again. It's a slight book -- I finished it in a day and change. It's also completely beautiful, like some extended, hypnotic free verse poem that plays lovingly over and over the possibilities of language and description the way light plays over the surface of water.
Marilynne Robinson provides the blurb for the cover, and there are certain echoes of her lyrical masterpiece, Gilead, in Tinkers' quiet meditation on observation, natural beauty, and a father/son relationship. However, in structure and approach, I would compare the book more aptly to a novel like The Lover -- a self-contained and interior lyric work. Despite all the risk inherent in this kind of fiction, there are almost no missteps, save for a couple of overly big words that clank unnecessarily in their sentences, and one abstract lyric passage in the last few pages that interrupts the power of the closing scene. Other scenes, however--like that of a home being moved down a snowy track in the heart of winter--are the kind of images that stay with you, long after you've closed the book. In fact, in an odd way, I feel like Tinkers is the kind of book I've always wanted to read about snow and silence and trees and seasons. It creates its own readers.
On a final note, hats off to whomever designed Harding's cover. It drew me in from across the room, and after reading the first page, I knew I would have to buy the book. The story of Tinkers' voyage to print is heartening for any "emerging" writer. I look forward to Harding's work to come.
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