Tinkers by Paul Harding

I finished reading this book

on the same morning that I took this picture
from my porch. And though I am accustomed to what our winters are like here - sometimes sunny and warm but often grey and damp - this foggy feeling is definitely reflective of my season. It's not just because of Friday's tragedy; I was grey before that. It's just a pervasive feeling of quiet. Sometimes it's peace; others it is weighty and dark.

This book was a good match for that feeling. Tinkers is Paul Harding's first novel. Marilynne Robinson (author of one of my favorite books ever) says of it:
Tinkers is truly remarkable. ... It confers on the reader the best privilege fiction can afford, the illusion of ghostly proximity to other human souls.
Reading that praise, I was ready for a masterwork, a revelation. It was no less remarkable, but for me, it was something else than a revelation. It was a tree emerging from fog. You can recognize the form, the texture of it; the recognition, however, makes it no less intangible.

Tinkers is about George Crosby and his impending death. It is also about George's father, Howard, and Howard's father, almost a shadow. It is about clocks and art; it is about family and loss. It is a familiar scene for those of us who are watching a man fade as he dies. It is a familiar feeling for those of us who are living in the face of that fading.

Perhaps the best I can do to reveal my connection to this book is to quote the two passages I underlined. There are only two in this brief book though many more were worthy.
And as you split frost-laced wood with numb hands, rejoice that your uncertainty is God's will and His grace toward you and that that is beautiful, and part of a greater certainty, as your own father always said in his sermons and to you at home. And as the ax bites into the wood, be comforted in the fact that the ache in your heart and the confusion in your soul means that you are still alive, still human, and still open to the beauty of the world, even though you have done nothing to deserve it. (72)
And this passage quoted from The Reasonable Horologist by the Reverend Kenner Davenport (a made-up text that recurs in the book)
so does man squirm and fret on the dusty skin of our earth, ignorant of the purpose of the world, indeed, the cosmos, beyond the fact that there is one, assigned by God and known only to Him, and that it is good and that it is terrifying and that it is ineffable and that only rational faith can soothe the desperate pains and woes of our magnificent and depraved world.  It is that simple, dear reader, that logical and that elegant. (180)
The book does not revolve around these faith-driven points although I do think the crux of the book has its bearings in selfhood and purpose and what it means to be alive. Clearly, though, it was these passages that spoke to me most.


  1. This was a good one for sure. I have had trouble writing anything this week, but the first passage you cited is one more gentle nudge to me, I think, to begin finding my way out of the fog.

    1. So good. It lingers in the my mind in an odd way.