I was on such a roll this year! Sure, I had a few DNF's. But then this book happened... I was temped to DNF, but I was reading it for a book club at work so I pushed through. Boy, it was brutal.
Beware, this entire review is negative.
Tinkers by Paul Harding
Goodness, the writing in this book was all over the place! In one sentence we have very descriptive and poetical phrases, and then the next is blunt and simple. That coupled with the various perspectives, and the incredibly random and jumpy timelines… made this book a total miss for me.
But let me back up...
So what is this book about, exactly? Even after reading the entire thing, I cannot really give an answer to that. It really seemed like two books cut up and very badly merged into one.
I can tell you that the book mainly alternates between two narratives. One for George Washington Crosby, a clock repairman, who is hallucinating and reflecting upon his life before he passes away. And one for Howard Aaron Crosby, a traveling salesman who was prone to seizures, who is George's father. Other than simply being George’s father and adding some lighter sections to the book to contrast with the dark and depressing sections from George, I cannot see a point to including any of the sections from his perspective.
In Chapter One, it really irritated me that the POVs did not alternate consistently at all. And there's no marking for each section, just a paragraph break to indicate it is indeed a new section. Sometimes the sections are spoken from one of George's grandsons, but you don't figure that out until deep into that specific section.
There were so many random bits of the two men’s lives that were shared, as well as side stories and journal entries… I had a really hard time caring about any of it. If it had been organized in a more straightforward way, I think I would have appreciated it more. But even so, I feel like a pretty big chunk of this book could have been left out and it would have been a much more powerful read.
There were a number of sections for George that all began with lines like "one hundred and thirty-two hours before he died…”. At first I thought that these were a bit morbid, but they did help to explain the timeline. So at first I didn't like them, but then I appreciated it. I just wish that every single one of his sections began that way so I could keep track of time. It was very clear that the closer George got to death, the more scattered his thoughts were. But even so, we didn’t follow a straight path there either. We began with him very close to death as he hallucinated, and then got random chunks of time as the author chose to discuss them.
And don’t get me wrong, I do understand that we're seeing the memories from George Crosby’s life in whatever order that his brain brought them up in some sections. So while these chunks seem very unorganized, that's how it's supposed to be. But overall, I really with that the storylines had some sort of structure.
Because of the lack of any cohesive structure at all, I was incredibly frustrated with this book. So many times I found myself so focused on trying to figure out who’s perspective we were seeing and when, that I wasn't appreciating what was happening.
And there were SO many run on sentences. There are also so many instances where the author goes off on a tangent about the simplest of things, like how a field looks, or what a wildlife is around a pond. These tangents are so descriptive, but really don’t add anything to to story itself. So whether it was a run on sentence or a tangent, many of of these instances seemed to be totally pointless to me. It was like the author was writing just to take up space.
The only bits of this chapter that I enjoyed were the sections about Howard and the Hermit, and the funeral pyre boat that George made for a dead mouse.
Then we finally make it to Chapter Two. This chapter was all about George’s childhood with Howard and the rest of the family. Then Chapter Three was about Howard growing up with his father, a priest. These two sections were organized much better! However, the third chapter felt like another very long tangent. It did give a bit of insight into Howard’s life, but I don’t think it really added to the story at all.
In Chapter Four we’re back with poor George who is very close to death. But this chapter is back to the very scattered organization of chapter one, and I was not impressed.
Ugh. I would definitely not recommend this book.
My only favorite passage:
Next fell the stars, tinkling about him like the ornaments of heaven shaken loose.