by Paul Harding
In this second novel by Paul Harding we are re-introduced to the Crosby family, the protagonists of his Pulitzer prize-winning novel, TINKERS (see our review). This time it’s the grandson Charlie who is the central character and death is the theme again.
Charlie’s 14 year old daughter, Kate has been killed in a cycling accident and his grief is overwhelming. His wife leaves him and Charlie is alone in their rather ramshackle, but once happy home on the outskirts of the small town of Enon, Massachusetts where he has lived all his life. As he descends into a pit of despair, he tries to find consolation in drugs and alcohol - hallucinating, rambling, ranting. The odd neighbour comes by to see how he is but soon he’s left with just memories and reflections of what could have been if Kate were still here. As he wanders round Enon, out of his mind, unkempt, thieving, talking to himself, he becomes a town oddity – the crazy father of the dead girl.
I don’t know how you write about the unthinkable. Maybe it’s Harding’s ability to brilliantly describe the workings of the hallucinogenic mind but, for me, the most heart-breaking episodes are when Charlie, in his more lucid moments, has real-life encounters such as his attempt to engage with the Indian shopkeeper or his botched burglary attempt of an elderly couple. Here, glimmers of hope appear, and we can only wish that one day he’ll be ok.
Published in hardback by William Heinemann - 238pp