Thursday, January 13, 2011

Tinkers | Paul Harding

This is the 2010 Pulitzer Prize for fiction. I try and read as many Pulitzer winners as I can so I can 'meet' authors I may not have read before. With 'Tinkers" I was underwhelmed. It describes the last few days of George's life where he is bed ridden and surrounded by relatives. He drifts in and out of consciousness and in the drifting revisits his life's story and more poignantly his relationship with his father, Howard.
George grew up on a New England farm which just made ends meet. His brother Jo seems to have had some mental illness, his mother worked hard to keep things going with the help of George and his two sisters. The Howard was an itinerant salesman to rural properties and suffered from epilepsy. Whether it was this illness or another condition is unclear but he had weird sensory hallucinations which he wrote in a notebook as he traveled through the countryside. He also muses a lot on his own father, a preacher whose mental state deteriorates to the point where he tells his congregation the Devil isn't all that bed. He is ousted by the parishioners and put in a mental institution
George struggles to relate to his father, and as his father's mental state deteriorates George is more and more confused in his emotions towards him. As an adult he became a clock repairer and he compares the intricacies of clocks to the intricacies of life and of his own family.
In his last few minutes of life we discover that Howard left his family and remarried and started a new life. He shows up at George's home and tires to reconnect but the impression is that George was distant and too removed to make any meaningful emotional connection with his father in the end.
There is a lot of reflection and musing on life and families and it is well written but I didn't feel it was a satisfying story and when finished it didn't linger in my mind at all.

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