Tinkers by Paul Harding

Tinkers is the surprise winner of the 2010 Pulitzer Prize in fiction. It’s a small, short, quiet book that is but is rich in description and psychological depth. The book begins on an George Washington Crosby’s deathbed, just a few days before he passes away. As his body slowly shuts down from kidney failure, he looks back on his life and the mistakes he made. The further he delves into his past, he  begins to unlock the stories of his father and grandfather.

This is a book that takes a minimalist approach with the plot, yet is heavy on character development; it was a hard book for me to get into. The opening chapter, which goes into the gritty details of how Crosby’s lungs are filling with the retained fluids as his kidney’s cease to work, essentially drowning him, was particularly brutal to read because my own grandfather died in the same manner. It’s not an way to go, and not an easy thing to witness.  A bit jarred by that opening scene, I’ll admit I continued reading with some trepidation.

In the years following his retirement, Crosby taught himself how to fix clocks. Harding goes into great detail about the inner workings of clocks, tying them to the overall themes in the book, and the descriptions about those tinkerings didn’t exactly support my attempts to focus on the story.

But somewhere along the way, Harding sneaks up on you. One minute I was struggling to focus, the next moment I was in complete awe over the tiniest glimpse that Harding sheds into various characters’ lives. I may not have been 100% bowled over for the entire duration of my reading experience, but I will say that the book stayed with me for long after I finished it. If there’s one thing to be said about Harding, it’s that the man knows how to write; the emotional punch that’s written into some of those passages was nothing short of amazing.

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