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Tinkers Paperback – January 1, 2009

428 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. 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.)
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From Booklist

*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. --Donna Seaman

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 191 pages
  • Publisher: Bellevue Literary Press (January 1, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 193413712X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1934137123
  • Product Dimensions: 5 x 0.5 x 7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 6.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (428 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #17,775 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Paul Harding has an MFA from the Iowa Writers' Workshop. He lives in Georgetown, Massachusetts. He is the recipient of the 2010 Pulitzer Prize in fiction for 'Tinkers.'

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

169 of 177 people found the following review helpful By Richard Pittman on April 24, 2010
Format: Paperback
Tinkers was a well reviewed first novel and I think it is a very promising debut. Its recent Pulitzer Prize win was shocking to many as it wasn't on the radar of most critics or pundits. I liked Tinkers but think that awarding it the Pulitzer was overdoing it a bit. It's certainly not even close to the worst novel to win the prize but again I think, for me, it's a level below the really good Pulitzer Prize winners.

The maddening thing about reading this novel is that it has the parts to be brilliant. The characters are vivid. Some of the story lines are inspired. I clearly felt the sadness of some of the characters and ultimately their desperation.

The basic story line is that George Washington Crosby is near death and looking back at his life. For the largest and by far best section of the novel, George is a young boy. He reminisces about life as a child but we also see this period from his father's point of view. His father, Howard, is the most compelling character in the novel and the one I had the most affection for.

Howard is a man of little means with the heart of a poet. He scrapes together a living by travelling around the rural backroads with his strange wagon of diverse wares. Howard suffers from epilepsy and this is a burden both to himself and his family. His son George and wife Kathleen both bear him some ill will for his affliction. The readers feel Howard's sadness and desperation.

George grows up to be a fairly normal man who has a family and later in life makes a lot of money fixing old clocks. He has a passion for tinkering with clocks and with hoarding the money he makes from this endeavour.

As mentioned, I think several of the storylines are brilliant.
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347 of 390 people found the following review helpful By Mark Wilson on April 19, 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
While the Booker committee has made a habit of laying eggs of late, the Pulitzer has selected an impressive collection of literary gems. Marilynne Robinson's Gilead, Cormac McCarthy's The Road, Edward Jones' The Known World, Junot Diaz's Oscar Wao and, now, Paul Harding's Tinkers represent what great literature is all about.

I was only 20 pages into this book when I felt the overwhelming presence of Marilynne Robinson. Lo and behold, upon reading a Wikipedia entry on the author I found that he studied with Robinson at the Iowa Writers Workshop. The similarities with Gilead are strong, but not obtrusively so. I would categorize Tinkers as a more experimentally daring Gilead, or perhaps a more transcendental Gilead. The narrative is more disjointed in keeping with the protagonist's hallucinatory final illness, so the experimental nature is not gratuitous. And while Gilead was chock full of good ol' conventional Sunday religion, Tinkers tends to be more mystical and perhaps a bit more melancholy.

So who should read this excellent novel? Here you will find no explosions, no cosmic battles, no schools of magic, nobody scurrying about to solve cryptic ciphers. The cast of characters is small but deep; there's no major whodunit here. This is a family saga as told through the final, disjointed memories of a family patriarch in Maine. Like Gilead, the novel consists of the reminiscences of an old man nearing the end of his life. The narrative is not linear; it changes tense, perspective and tone with few signposts for the reader. But if you like a literary challenge, if you like the previous Pulitzer winners and if you enjoy poetic use of the English language along the lines of Marilynne Robinson, you will enjoy this novel. It's a major achievement.
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71 of 78 people found the following review helpful By Eric Selby on April 17, 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Even here in Miami Beach in mid-April I found myself shuddering occasionally as I slowly moved through this remarkable small book, mine not yet identified as the winner of the Pulitzer Prize in Literature. A man is dying, his last hours ticking away in a hospital bed in the dining room of a house filled with clocks, for he has tinkered on them during his long life. He sees the world around him collapsing upon itself, the tiles of his life as meaningless, at least to future generations. And as he lies there, his kidneys almost functionless, he thinks about his father, an epileptic who was a door-to-door salesman in a fictional West Cove, Maine. The cover of this book is just so perfect: the life of the Crosby family is a bleak as is that part of the world in winter.
This may be a difficult book for some readers to get into because for a while one is provide with a richness of language that is not often found in current literature, as rich as the language of another novel set in Maine and also a Pulitzer winner, Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout. What is it about Maine that gets all these Pulitzer novels? Before that Richard Russo's Empire Falls.
Paul Harding's artistry allows readers into the minds of its characters. George's mother wishes she could kill herself, an impoverished woman with four children, an epileptic husband, and isolated in this tragic setting. But the lake is too frozen for her to chop the hole that would allow her to drown. The reader shivers as he reads what she is thinking. And this is only one small piece of the mastery of Harding's language. And as I read this novel I thought about my maternal grandparents who lived atop a small mountain in northern Vermont living without electricity until their fiftieth wedding anniversary in the early fifties.
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