Book Review: Tinkers, by Paul Harding

I was lucky enough to see the first headlines during my lunch break at work about this little novel winning the Pulitzer Prize last month.  It was lucky as I was then able to reserve a copy at the library right away, before anybody else put it on hold.  I was excited to be first in line, especially when I saw the Las Vegas Clark County Library District only has six copies of it!  (Last year’s winner, Oliver Kitteridge, has 18 copies available.)  Surely more would soon be on the way.  Checking back just now, however, shows that not to be the case.  Apparently, six of this one will do.

And so it might, as only 24 people have it on hold.  After more than two weeks?  For a Pulitzer winner?  800 people had Dan Brown’s The Lost Symbol on hold last year.  Much has been made of Tinkers being from a small press.  Perhaps this is a good illustration of that obscurity. 

That was the first reason why I was excited about reading it–the news release noted that the last time a small press novel had won was with 1981’s A Confederacy of Dunces, which I loved.  Where that was a sprawling, bawdy, comic satire, however, Tinkers is a sparse, dense, somber analysis of the effect of death on the living and dying. 

Tinkers is what The Year of Magical Thinking would have looked like, had it been written by Cormac McCarthy. 

Paul Harding’s story here is not itself terribly special: he uses one man’s imminent death to catalyze a series of generational fugues, revealing perceived memories of fathers, sons, and grandfathers across a century and more.  Continue reading