Reviews for Tinkers
Booklist Reviews 2008 December #1
*Starred Review* A tinker is a mender, and in Harding s spellbinding debut, he imagines the old, mendable horse-and-carriage world. The objects of the past were more readily repaired than our electronics, but the living world was a mystery, as it still is, as it always will be. And so in this rhapsodic novel of impending death, Harding considers humankind s contrary desires to conquer the "imps of disorder" and to be one with life, fully meshed within the great glimmering web. In the present, George lies on his death bed in the Massachusetts house he built himself, surrounded by family and the antique clocks he restores. George loves the precision of fine timepieces, but now he is at the mercy of chaotic forces and seems to be channeling his late father, Howard, a tinker and a mystic whose epileptic seizures strike like lightning. Howard, in turn, remembers his "strange and gentle" minister father. Each man is extraordinarily porous to nature and prone to becoming "unhitched" from everyday human existence and entering a state of ecstasy, even transcendence. Writing with breathtaking lyricism and tenderness, Harding has created a rare and beautiful novel of spiritual inheritance and acute psychological and metaphysical suspense. Copyright 2008 Booklist Reviews.
Kirkus Reviews 2008 October #2
Elderly New Englander on his deathbed finds his thoughts drifting back to the father who abandoned the family when he was 12. His organs failing and his mind wandering, retired antique-clock repairman George Washington Crosby prepares to leave this world surrounded by loving family in the house he built himself. In a parallel narrative, his father Howard, a traveling peddler, sells cleaning supplies and sundries to dirt-poor farm wives in 1920s Massachusetts. Barely eking out enough to support his increasingly bitter wife Kathleen and four children, Howard has the heart of a poet and prefers nature walks to selling soap. His quiet desperation is complicated by regular epileptic seizures that leave him bloody and dazed, sometimes miles from home. A violent fit in his home results in him badly biting young George, prompting Kathleen to take steps to send her husband to a state-run mental hospital. He flees, leaving George to grow up into a meticulous, practical man who stashes cash in safety-deposit boxes, most likely as a reaction to his own penniless youth. Debut author Harding (Creative Writing/Harvard Univ.) employs diary entries, stream-of-consciousness musings and excerpts from clock-repair manuals to tell both men's stories. Short on dialogue and filled with lovely Whitmanesque descriptions of the natural world, this slim novel gives shape to the extraordinary variety in the thoughts of otherwise ordinary men.An evocative meditation on the nonlinear nature of a life. Copyright Kirkus 2008 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.
Library Journal Reviews 2008 October #2
George Washington Crosby has eight days to live. After this first line, the life of George and of his father, Howard, who left when George was 12, is explored through the metaphor of George's hobby of repairing clocks. Howard was a peddler, traveling with a cart and mule through eastern Maine around the turn of the century. This isolated profession allowed him to keep his affliction, epilepsy, successfully hidden from most everyone until, finally, his wife decides he has to be institutionalized for the safety of her children. It is to avoid this that Howard disappears. George, as he lays dying, considers his life and family coming in and out of reality and history. Harding, an MFA from Iowa Writer's Workshop, creates a beautifully written study of father-son relationships and the nature of time. This short work is a solid addition for larger literary collections. Recommended.--Josh Cohen, Mid-Hudson Lib. Syst., Poughkeepsie, NY [Page 55]. Copyright 2008 Reed Business Information.
Publishers Weekly Reviews 2008 September #5
Harding's outstanding debut unfurls the history and final thoughts of a dying grandfather surrounded by his family in his New England home. George Washington Crosby repairs clocks for a living and on his deathbed revisits his turbulent childhood as the oldest son of an epileptic smalltime traveling salesman. The descriptions of the father's epilepsy and the "cold halo of chemical electricity that encircled him immediately before he was struck by a full seizure" are stunning, and the household's sadness permeates the narrative as George returns to more melancholy scenes. The real star is Harding's language, which dazzles whether he's describing the workings of clocks, sensory images of nature, the many engaging side characters who populate the book, or even a short passage on how to build a bird nest. This is an especially gorgeous example of novelistic craftsmanship. (Jan.) [Page 58]. Copyright 2008 Reed Business Information.