“I had a daughter and she died.” With those chilling words, Paul Harding’s new novel launches readers on a harrowing journey into the mind of a father wrecked with grief over the death of his teenage daughter in a bicycling accident.
Kate’s death quickly fractures Charlie Crosby’s already shaky marriage, and his wife flees the Massachusetts town that gives the novel its title to return to her family. Alone, Charlie spirals into an ever deeper despair, and Harding fully inhabits his psyche to paint a bleak portrait of nearly unremitting grief. Fueled by drugs and tortured by sleeplessness, Charlie spends his nights wandering through Enon’s cemetery, struggling to summon memories of his daughter—or as he says, “trying to follow her into the country of the dead in order to fetch her back.” Even nature, in the form of a hurricane, is congruent with Charlie’s profound sadness.
Relief comes intermittently through the judicious use of flashbacks, as Harding gently reveals Charlie’s relationship with Kate, his only child. We see them feeding birds from their hands and exploring the colorfully named landmarks of Enon, like Wild Man’s Meadow and Peters’s Pulpit. In these seemingly inconsequential moments, we understand the strength of the bond between father and daughter and the poignancy of a life ended violently and prematurely. Charlie realizes that Kate’s “short and happy life was the greatest joy in my own,” while understanding, paradoxically, that the same joy “was the measure and source of my grief.”
Charlie is the grandson of the main character of Harding’s Pulitzer Prize-winning Tinkers, who makes a brief appearance here. The stories are, however, also connected by a shared appreciation for the culture and history of small New England towns and a fascination with the n[Mon Sep 1 15:19:19 2014] enhancedContent.pl: Wide character in print at E:\websites\aquabrowser\IMCPL\app\site\enhancedContent.pl line 249. atural world, as well as Harding’s affinity for dense, yet lyrical, prose.
Enon is a novel that is chiseled out of profound darkness. But Harding’s sensitivity in telling this difficult story makes reading it a rewarding, if sometimes painful, experience.
ALSO IN BOOKPAGE: Read a Q&A with Paul Harding for Enon.Copyright 2012 BookPage Reviews.
Harding's exquisite debut novel, Tinkers, won the Pulitzer Prize and has racked up sales close to 500,000 copies in the trade paperback and ebook formats combined. Writing in the first person and again using New England as a setting, Harding explores the grief of protagonist Charlie Crosby (grandson of Tinkers character George Crosby) over the loss of his daughter. An eight-city tour.[Page 54]. (c) Copyright 2013. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Novelist Harding's literary debut, Tinkers, which won the 2010 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, introduced the world to a New England clockmaker named George Washington Crosby. This second novel continues the family story through George's grandson, Charlie Crosby, a man tumbling into a downward spiral of drug abuse and depression following the death of his daughter. Charlie turns his trauma inward to preserve both the memory of his daughter and the town of Enon in which he was born and raised. The narrative is a bridge between these intertwined but disparate experiences. While Charlie paints a bucolic portrait of Enon in his mind, his body and overall appearance wither away. Eventually, his memories and drug-induced imagination conjure up his daughter's ghost, and the faculties of imagination and memory are presented as potentially harmful, leading to prolonged and intensified suffering. The reader is left to ponder whether grief is best remedied by hanging onto the memories of the past or by moving forward without them. VERDICT With crisp, descriptive language, Harding continues where his previous novel left off, exploring the complexity of family and mortality. [See Prepub Alert, 3/18/13.]--Joshua Finnell, Denison Univ. Lib., Granville, OH[Page 85]. (c) Copyright 2013. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Drawing upon the same New England landscape and family as his Pulitzer Prize-winning debut Tinkers, Harding deftly captures loss and its consequences in this gorgeous and haunting follow-up. The novel opens with a grieving Charlie Crosby (grandson of Tinkers protagonist George Washington Crosby) attempting to come to terms with the death of his daughter, Kate, and the subsequent dissolution of his marriage. Although the narrative is rendered through Charlie's voice, the phenomenal prose on which Harding has staked his name comes out authentically, especially in the book's darkest and most introspective moments: "I felt like a ghost, listless and confined, wandering in a house that had been mine a century ago, relegated to examining the details of the lives of strangers." While the novel's first half is mired in the cyclical self-obsession and self-hatred of grief, and slows to a crawl for a few too many flashbacks, Charlie's eventual substance abuse and resulting hallucinations allow Harding to let his prose loose as he delves into the deepest aspects of loss and regret. Offering an elegiac portrait of a severed family and the town of Enon itself, Harding's second novel again proves he's a contemporary master and one of our most important writers. Agent: Ellen Levine, Trident Media Group. (Sept. 10)[Page ]. Copyright 2013 PWxyz LLC