Tinkers, by Paul Harding, is a novel that projects from the mind of George Washington Crosby, a dying man. The events of his harried life are replayed, as he lay dying on a hospital bed in his living room, surrounded by various family members.
His one wish, before dying, is to be able to recollect memories of his epileptic father, to be able to “see” him one last time. Within the flashbacks to George’s childhood, events are told with the precision of a clock, as George is a clock maker and repairer. In fact, the walls of his house are lined with clocks, and time is ticking away for him. Memories arise and fade, and the clocks tick the seconds away and chime away the hours.
Within his own memories, whether accurate or due to his unstable and hallucinatory mind, as his life is ending, characters weave in and out of his life, and the reader is given privy to their thoughts and feelings. Howard Aaron Crosby, George’s father is a salesman driving a cart out into the rural areas to sell wares. He disappeared, after having a Gran Mal seizure. His mother feels trapped in her role and feels life has given her a bad turn. Her four children cause her problems, and feels that ending her life would solve them. Both of George’s parents are trapped within their mental state. Familial dynamics are an integral part of the whole, within the pages.
The novel looks at life and death, love and loss, and the events in between that cause one to formulate their own lives. George has never quite gotten over the loss of his father, and in his last days and hours focuses on him. His dreams and hallucinations are disjointed at times, and are often difficult to follow. That does not diminish Harding’s writing style or story line, in my opinion. George’s transcendence to death is filled with disconnected thoughts and visions. I would imagine that is a normal process for those in the throes of their last moments.
Harding definitely has a way with evoking vivid images. At times the grammar and the grammatical style and structure are not consistent, but for me, it reinforces the state of mind of the dying. His word-paintings are so alive with descriptions and emotions. His prose is masterful and often verges on poetic loveliness.
Paul Harding captivated me from the first page, and I read Tinkers straight through. Tinkers is a unique novel, in the sense of what defines a family and what defines a tinker. A tinker can also be one who plays and replays moments in time, within the framework of his/her mind, tinkering with the past so to speak.