“Tinkers” by Paul Harding

Tinkers by Paul Harding was a selection for one of my book groups. I read it alongside Vestments by John Reimringer and Peace Like a River by Leif Enger to compare and contrast the three novels. There were a lot of similarities, as well as differences, and each had things to well reward the reader.

Tinkers announces its ending at the beginning:

George Washington Crosby began to hallucinate eight days before he died.

Over the eight days of George’s dying, he moves beyond his own consciousness and remembers events from his own life, but also his father Howard’s, and his unnamed grandfather’s. George was a teacher when he was young, and later an antique clock repair person, tinkering with their inner works. Eight days is the time a wound clock will take to run down. Howard was a tinker in that he owned a cart and sold things and did odd jobs around the countryside. His father was a preacher, in awe of nature, and attempting to make connections between nature and God even while his own connections were failing him as he succumbed to dementia.

This is a surprisingly dense book for one so short. The sentences can be mesmerizing, but sometimes I found them too much, and had to drag my attention back to the page. This is not a fast-moving, plot-driven tale. It reminded me more than a little of Marilynne Robinson’s Gilead, unsurprising as Harding was a student of Robinson’s. Like that book, it’s about fathers and sons, and how we engage with the world and our families. If you liked that book, you’re likely to appreciate this one.

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