by Paul Harding
TINKERS is one of those books whose opening sequence just knocks you for six. Clockmaker George Washington Crosby is dying. As he lies on his deathbed he hallucinates: “The cracks on the ceiling widened into gaps. The locked wheels of his bed sank into new fault lines opening in the oak floor beneath the rug. At any moment the floor was going to give…..Voices murmured out in the kitchen.”
As he lies dying George dips in an out of consciousness, his thoughts veering from the hallucinogenic to the lucid where he visits the past and especially to his childhood where he is preoccupied with thoughts of his father, Howard. Howard is the tinker of the story. He scrapes a living selling door to door roaming the New England countryside (sublimely described by Harding) with his mule and cart and dealing with his epilepsy, a secret kept between him and his rather distant wife. When Howard is late home from his rounds only she knows why, never explaining to the children why they have to sit and wait for their father as the food on their plates grows cold. Then one awful but revelatory Christmas day the children understand.
His present day family – wife, sister, grandchildren – devotedly tend to George. Sometimes he knows who they are, sometimes not, as the clocks he lovingly restored tick and chime in the background – an inescapable and tortuous reminder of the passage of things.
There’s plenty to discuss in this short novel not least the writing style which is very rich and poetic (sometimes too much for this reader) and it is easy to see where Harding, a student of the wonderful Marilynne Robinson, gets his inspiration.
TINKERS won the prestigious Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 2010.
Published by Windmill Books - 191pp.