I left for vacation last week in the wilds of Maine and wanted a audiobook with me that would fit the setting. I had already downloaded one of several Pulitzer winners set in Maine, and found this to be the perfect accompaniment to my drives along rural roads and dirt tracks to the places I went, running errands from my mother’s beautiful cabin on a pond deep in the Maine woods. This book takes its time. Nothing huge happens. Life, nature, relationships are carefully observed. There are passages from a historical book by a clock expert.
Plenty of people seem completely at a loss as to why this book won a Pulitzer. I am not one of them. I loved it and thought it did exactly what Pulitzer books do when they are at their best: serve up a beautifully crafted piece of specifically-American life.
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
George Crosby remembered things as he died, but in an order he could not control. To look at his life, to take the stock he always imagined a man would at his end, was to witness a shifting mass, the tiles of a mosaic, spinning, swirling, reportraying, always in recognizable swaths of colors, familiar elements, molecular units, intimate currents, but also independent now of his will, showing him a different self every time he tried to make an assessment.
This book was a beautiful reflection on life, family, and the natural world. Set in New England, Tinkers is the tale of the last days of George Washington Crosby. Paul Harding‘s Pulitzer Prize winning narrative moves back and forth between Crosby’s interactions with his family as they sit with him in his final days, the memories of different epochs of Crosby’s life that come to mind as he lies in a bed in the family living room, and scenes from the lives of his father and grandfather in their rural Maine communities. The prose is descriptive without being overly busy–painting crisp clear scenes from the beautiful places that form the backdrop of the Crosby men’s lives. There are also portraits of the other people who formed their social networks, drawn with equal deftness. Harding explores the challenges presented to individual family members and their relationships as they were touched by poverty, but also, importantly, by illness. He shows both the healing power of acceptance and forgiveness and the corrosive impact of bitterness in intimate relationships when challenges arise. Glancing at reviews online, I gather that this is not a book for everyone. People seem to either love or hate the content and style of the novel. I am clearly in the love camp.