I didn’t read Tinker, Paul Harding’s first novel and the winner of the 2010 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, so when I got my hands on an advanced copy of its companion novel Enon, all I knew about Harding and his new book was what I gleaned from the back cover. A few pages in, it was apparent that Paul Harding is a master of his craft. His skill at evoking a strong sense of place and emotion draws one into the heart and mind of his main character and the town of Enon itself.
This is a beautifully written heart-breaker of a book, about a father’s life following the death of his thirteen-year-old daughter. The sense of shock, and subsequent numbness, is tangible. It’s clear that Charlie Crosby is a thoughtful man, with strong bonds to the town in which he’s lived his entire life. It’s also clear that nothing in his life matters as much to him as family. When a parent loses a child, is it noble to carry on? Heroic? For Charlie, life doesn’t end abruptly when his daughter dies, it simply stretches out into a slow drowning in which he finds himself swimming thickly through another world. A world which lies under the surface of the one which he’d previously inhabited. A world where people are going about their business in an ordinary fashion while he is left groping blindly at the convenience store on the corner for coffee cups and conversation, which now seem to lie clumsily and forever outside his grasp.
My Favorite Character
Charles Crosby. Even as he is slipping so far away from the joyful life he’d lived with his daughter and wife, he is keenly aware of the great gift that his daughter’s life had been. Knowing how sad and disappointed his daughter would be by his response to her death only unravels him further, and yet he is incapable of finding his balance “undaughtered”.
Words to Live By
“I loved her totally, and while I loved her, the world was love. Once she was gone, the world seemed to prove nothing more than ruins and the smoldering dreams of monsters.”
I highly recommend this book for those who are fascinated by history, community, the natural world, and the bonds of family – and how those elements weave together to create deep connection to our place in the world.
Gorgeous and sad, Enon is a magical book about the breaking apart of a life and one man’s struggle to simultaneously mourn and honor lost love. As a mother myself, it was not an easy read – but it is as accurate a portrayal of the loss of a beloved child as I can imagine.
You’ve read the review, now go meet the author! Paul Harding, by happy coincidence, is going to be signing books at Village Books this Saturday, October 5 at 7:00 p.m.
Enon is also available at the Bellingham Public Library.