Tinkers

( 260 )

Overview

An old man lies dying. As time collapses into memory, he travels deep into his past where he is reunited with his father and relives the wonder and pain of his impoverished New England youth. At once heartbreaking and life affirming, Tinkers is an elegiac meditation on love, loss, and the fierce beauty of nature.

2010 Pulitzer Prize Winner for Fiction

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Overview

An old man lies dying. As time collapses into memory, he travels deep into his past where he is reunited with his father and relives the wonder and pain of his impoverished New England youth. At once heartbreaking and life affirming, Tinkers is an elegiac meditation on love, loss, and the fierce beauty of nature.

2010 Pulitzer Prize Winner for Fiction

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

Harding's outstanding debut unfurls the history and final thoughts of a dying grandfather surrounded by his family in his New England home. George Washington Crosby repairs clocks for a living and on his deathbed revisits his turbulent childhood as the oldest son of an epileptic smalltime traveling salesman. The descriptions of the father's epilepsy and the "cold halo of chemical electricity that encircled him immediately before he was struck by a full seizure" are stunning, and the household's sadness permeates the narrative as George returns to more melancholy scenes. The real star is Harding's language, which dazzles whether he's describing the workings of clocks, sensory images of nature, the many engaging side characters who populate the book, or even a short passage on how to build a bird nest. This is an especially gorgeous example of novelistic craftsmanship. (Jan.)

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Library Journal

George Washington Crosby has eight days to live. After this first line, the life of George and of his father, Howard, who left when George was 12, is explored through the metaphor of George's hobby of repairing clocks. Howard was a peddler, traveling with a cart and mule through eastern Maine around the turn of the century. This isolated profession allowed him to keep his affliction, epilepsy, successfully hidden from most everyone until, finally, his wife decides he has to be institutionalized for the safety of her children. It is to avoid this that Howard disappears. George, as he lays dying, considers his life and family coming in and out of reality and history. Harding, an MFA from Iowa Writer's Workshop, creates a beautifully written study of father-son relationships and the nature of time. This short work is a solid addition for larger literary collections. Recommended.
—Josh Cohen

The New Yorker
This compact, adamantine debut dips in and out of the consciousness of a New England patriarch named George Washington Crosby as he lies dying on a hospital bed in his living room, 'right where they put the dining room table, fitted with its two extra leaves for holiday dinners'-- In Harding's skillful evocation, Crosby's life, seen from its final moments, becomes a mosaic of memories, 'showing him a different self every time he tried to make an assessment.'
The Boston Globe
Harding's interest is in the universalities: nature and time and the murky character of memory. . . The small, important recollections are rendered with an exactitude that is poetic. . . Harding's prose is lyrical and specific...Tinkers is a poignant exploration of where we may journey when the clock has barely a tick or two left and we really can't go anywhere at all.
From the Publisher

Accolades for Tinkers

Pulitzer Prize for Fiction Winner
PEN / Robert W. Bingham Prize Winner
American Library Association Notable Book
New York Times Bestseller

Also . . . an American Booksellers Association Indie Choice Honor Award recipient, International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award longlist selection, Los Angeles Times Art Seidenbaum First Fiction Award Finalist, and Center For Fiction Flaherty-Dunnan First Novel Prize Finalist

Named one of the best books of the year by the New Yorker, San Francisco Chronicle, Christian Science Monitor, Irish Times, Granta, Publishers Weekly, Library Journal, Barnes & Noble, Amazon.com, and National Public Radio

Praise for Tinkers

“A powerful celebration of life in which a New England father and son, through suffering and joy, transcend their imprisoning lives and offer new ways of perceiving the world and mortality.” —Pulitzer Prize citation

“An exquisite novel, at once fresh and hauntingly familiar, simple and profound, told with a voice so keen and beautiful as to leave the reader in a state of excitement produced only by literature, and the best literature at that.” —PEN/ Robert W. Bingham Prize citation

“In this lyrical novel, the life of a dying man is examined through the smallest moments of time and memory.” —American Library Association Notable Book citation

“An exquisitely written novel that captures the mysteries of relationships, memories and time passing in language that is both spare and lyrical. It is a true gem that sparkles with thoughtfulness, intelligence and life.” —International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award longlist nominee citation (from the New Hampshire State Library)

“There are few perfect debut American novels. . . . To this list ought to be added Paul Harding’s devastating first book, Tinkers. . . . Harding has written a masterpiece.” —NPR Best Debut Fiction of the Year

“A complex reflection on memory, consciousness, and the meaning of life.” —Diane Rehm Show “Readers’ Review” Book Club

“A novel that you’ll want to savor. . . . I found reading it to be an incredibly moving experience. . . . This book begs to be read aloud.” —Nancy Pearl, KUOW.org

“This compact, adamantine début dips in and out of the consciousness of a New England patriarch . . . In Harding’s skillful evocation, Crosby’s life, seen from its final moments, becomes a mosaic of memories.” —New Yorker

“Alive with gorgeous sentences.” —Elle

“A perfect read for reflection and short enough to finish in an afternoon.” —First for Women

“[An] astonishing novel.” —Los Angeles Times

“In Paul Harding’s stunning first novel, we find what readers, writ­ers and reviewers live for.” —San Francisco Chronicle

“Tinkers is a poignant exploration of where we may journey when the clock has barely a tick or two left and we really can’t go any­where at all.” —Boston Globe

“The life and death questions Paul Harding raises in Tinkers, as well as the richness of his writing, keep a reader coming back to it. . . . Like Faulkner, he never shies away from describing what seems impossible to put into words.” —Dallas Morning News

“Vivid and original . . . Tinkers [is] going to be around for a long, long time.” —Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

“This beautiful novel is sui generis; the most insignificant events . . . radiate fire and light.” —Minneapolis Star Tribune

“Few contemporary writers have [Harding’s] gift for uniting language and nature through a powerful imagination. Tinkers is a father-son story told with skill, depth and beauty.” —Concord Monitor

“Stunning . . . Writing in an economical style and transcendental spirit reminiscent of his friend and mentor, the award-winning novelist Marilynne Robinson, Harding, who apprenticed with his horologist grandfather, uses the clock as a metaphor for the cosmos and its deeper intricacies and mysteries.” —Louisville Courier-Journal

“This Cinderella winner of the Pulitzer Prize is alive with miraculous sentences.” —Cleveland Plain Dealer

“Tantalizing . . . Tinkers takes an uncompromising look at the complex emotional geometry that exists between parents and children.” —London Review of Books

“Harding is a first-rate writer, and his fascination with what makes his characters tick recommends him as a philosopher, as well.” —Time Out Chicago

“This is a book so meticulously assembled that vocabulary choices like ‘craquelure’ and ‘scrieved’—far from seeming pretentious—serve as reminders of how precise and powerful a tool good English can be.” —Christian Science Monitor

“A novel with an old-fashioned meditative quality so perfectly done that it is refreshing to read in a world filled with noises and false excitements. . . . It brings the reader to a closer understanding of his own life than he could have imagined before taking the journey.” —Yiyun Li, Granta.com Best Books of the Year

“Unique, captivating, and a measure more magical than most other contemporary novels.” —Guernica: A Magazine of Arts and Politics

“A luminous novel . . . that is not about death but instead an investigation into what life is all about. . . . The precipice is what Harding is so concentrated on, as though he were holding a magnifying glass up under bright sunlight and setting fire to the page.” —Quarterly Conversation

“Quiet, moving, breathtakingly crafted.” —Library Journal Best Books of the Year

“Writing with breathtaking lyricism and tenderness, Harding has created a rare and beautiful novel of spiritual inheritance and acute psychological and metaphysical suspense.” —Booklist (starred review)

“Outstanding . . . The real star is Harding’s language, which dazzles whether he’s describing the workings of clocks, sensory images of nature, the many engaging side characters who populate the book, or even a short passage on how to build a bird nest. This is an especially gorgeous example of novelistic craftsmanship.” —Publishers Weekly (starred review)

“Filled with lovely Whitmanesque descriptions of the natural world, this slim novel gives shape to the extraordinary variety in the thoughts of otherwise ordinary men.” —Kirkus Reviews

“This excellent debut proves Harding to be a writer of exceptional poise, possessing clear-eyed skill and, like his characters, a steady hand for the finest of details.” —Rumpus

“Paul Harding’s Tinkers is not just a novel—though it is a brilliant novel. It’s an instruction manual on how to look at nearly everything. Harding takes the back off to show you the miraculous ticking of the natural world, the world of clocks, generations of family, an epileptic brain, the human soul. In astounding language sometimes seemingly struck by lightning, sometimes as tight and complicated as clockwork, Harding shows how enormous fiction can be, and how economical. Read this book and marvel.” —Elizabeth McCracken, author of Niagara Falls All Over Again

Tinkers is truly remarkable. It achieves and sustains a unique fusion of language and perception. Its fine touch plays over the textured richnesses of very modest lives, evoking again and again a frisson of deep recognition, a sense of primal encounter with the brilliant, elusive world of the senses. It confers on the reader the best privilege fiction can afford, the illusion of ghostly proximity to other human souls.” —Marilynne Robinson, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Home, Gilead, and Housekeeping

“A work of great power and originality. There is a striking freedom of style here, which allows the author to move without any sense of strain or loss of balance from the visionary and ecstatic to the exquisitely precise. The novel is compelling to read, sometimes horrific, and deeply moving because it is woven together into the single quilt of our humanity.” —Barry Unsworth, Booker Prize-winning author of The Ruby in Her Navel

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781934137192
  • Publisher: Bellevue Literary Press
  • Publication date: 1/1/2009
  • Pages: 192
  • Sales rank: 404,893
  • Product dimensions: 5.30 (w) x 7.10 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

Paul Harding

Paul Harding is the author of two novels about multiple generations of a New England family: the Pulitzer Prize-winning Tinkers and Enon. A graduate of the University of Massachusetts, he was a drummer for the band Cold Water Flat before earning his MFA from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. Harding has also received a Guggenheim Fellowship and was a fiction fellow at the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown. He has taught at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, Harvard University, and Grinnell College. He now lives in Massachusetts with his wife and two sons.
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3
( 260 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(53)

4 Star

(49)

3 Star

(65)

2 Star

(47)

1 Star

(46)

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 261 Customer Reviews
  • Posted April 18, 2010

    I Also Recommend:

    Oh my, oh my

    As I finished Tinkers (a rare for me one-day read), I looked online to see how to contact Mr. Harding to thank him for this wonderful book. It was then that I saw the news that he/it had won the Pulitzer. As I wrote to him, nothing could be more deserved. Tinkers is beautifully insightful, stunningly poetic, and has me staring off to savor its revelations.

    ". . . Light changes, our eyes blink and see the world from the slightest difference of perspective and our place in it has changed infinitely... His despair came from the fact that his wife saw him as a fool. . . and could find no reason to turn her head and see him as something better." Dear reader, if that doesn't get you, you simply can't be had.

    Read it, cherish it. Blink and look again.

    38 out of 41 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted December 28, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    Blah ;-(

    First of all, why do people feel the need when writing reviews, to tell exactly what happens in the book including the ending? Come on!
    So I bought this book in an airport because I ran off and left the book I was reading, (Song of Solomon).
    I chose this book because it was short, however I quickly became irritated with the read. It was torture, but for some reason, if I start a book, I have to finish it (as long as it's not for academics) so I suffered through.
    I'm not a fan of poetry, especially mixed within and jumping around in the middle of the plot.
    The plot went nowhere, and everybody is raving about the language...no.
    I am a reader and would not recommend this book to any any any any any any anyone.
    I need to look around on the net and get some understanding about how the pulitzer was won.

    25 out of 41 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 28, 2010

    Beautiful!

    Beautiful, beautiful language. Told from the perspective of George, as he lays dying, during the last 8 days of his life, hallucinating, and reflecting on his life. As if through a kaleidoscope, he paints not only his own life growing up in Maine, living most of his life in Massachusetts, and eventually being an horologist, a precision mechanic of timepieces, but also the life of his father, a tinker, who lived with epilepsy. The tinker and the clock mechanic, both fastidious and precise in their own ways, and the experience of George's last week of hours are like the winding down of a clock. In the mix of his disjointed memories are those of his mother, contrary and cantankerous, railing against her now deceased husband, " A poet, ha? He was a birdbrain, a magpie, a loony bird, flapping around with those fits and all." George's own sweet nature reveals itself in the next lines: " Whenever he thought about what her bitter laments sought to stanch, he was overtaken by tears and paused . . . to kiss her camphored brow. To which gesture she would say, Don't you try to make me feel better!'" Can't you just see them? The middle-aged son, and the severe, elderly, grieving woman, angry at being left behind after her husband's death. This book is more painting than plot, beautifully crafted, and well-deserving of the Pulitzer Prize it earned in 2010. Of course, I can't tell you more, but oh! where it goes in the end!

    15 out of 17 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 15, 2011

    Horrible!!!!

    I cannot believe Paul Harding was actually able to have this book published! This was the absolute worst collection of words I have ever read in my life, and I'm ashamed that I wasted my time on it. Most of it makes no sense at all and it runs on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on. It was physically painful to read. Paul Harding, please do not ever write another book.

    9 out of 21 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 30, 2010

    The most over-written book ever published

    Replete with meaningless (i.e.: having no referential import whatsoever in either the real world or any legitimate imaginary world) imagery and cheap linguistic tricks, this pompous collection of ill-chosen words constitutes a desecration of the holy written page unparalleled in modern times: if you read it, you will want to rip your eyes from their sockets.
    Exactly how this "book" became acclaimed is a mystery, explicable (if at all possible) only by the flavor-of-the-day identity of the author, his connections at Harvard, or, possibly, bribery of awards-granting committees.
    The paper would have been better utilized for toilet duty.

    9 out of 16 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 1, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    A tiny novel that packs an emotional punch.

    An old man lies on his deathbed, and from it, reminisces about this childhood and his relationship with his father. Simple, yes?

    Yes, but Tinkers is not an "in your face" type of story. George Washington Crosby lapses in and out of consciousness as his loved ones wait for the inevitable. His childhood memories come and go in fleeting, almost ethereal ways. Some memories are more structured than others, but nearly all center around his father Howard, who spent a good portion of his adult life struggling with Epilepsy, which back then, was not a disease that people were familiar with.

    After a particularly bad episode, one which leaves George with a bitten hand, George's mother seeks help in treating this disease. Except, the "treatment" for such a thing back in those days involved a trip to a mental institution. Something that Howard wants no part of since his own father was taken to one when he was just a young boy.

    As a tinker, Howard is used to traveling from farm to farm, selling his wares. He is no stranger to travel. So, he loads up his cart and leaves his family, for good. What George recalls from his deathbed, are the tender moments between a father and his son, but also the darker moments of terror, not knowing or understanding what was happening to his father at the time.

    This is a sad story. It has a heavy, weighty feel to it even though it's such a short novel. Harding's grasp of the father/son dynamic is gripping and unrelenting at times. The images he paints with words caused me to pause in thought numerous times and it's left me mentally exhausted. That sounds like a negative comment but it's really not. Death is an ordeal and losing a loved one certainly takes its toll and that is what it feels like. It's as if I weathered a storm and now the clouds have passed. There is a moment of quiet wonder. That is what I am embracing right now.

    As a book club book, I think there would be a lot to discuss as far as how Harding presents his ideas, and his writing style in general, but it's a simple story at heart. Those looking for a book that is heavy on plot, won't find that in Tinkers, but it's a rewarding read nonetheless.

    9 out of 11 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 23, 2011

    Pretentious Literary Crap

    I'm normally not one to write public reviews but felt compelled to do so for this book. Most passages seemed forced and, as stated above, can only be described as pretentions literary crap. Many segments seemed like something a student would write for a 2-3 page descriptive writing assignment except each passage was semi tied together by the overall theme. There were some beautifully written passages which saved it from being a 191 page entire waste of my time. It was one of those books that make it hard to pick the next book due to the disappointment from the last. Final word: Worst Pulitzer winner I have read.

    6 out of 7 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted December 10, 2010

    cannot get into this book

    I just couldn't get into this book. I picked it up several times, thinking I just needed to give it a little more time, but, I'm giving up.

    6 out of 10 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 24, 2010

    Not your usual family story

    Exellent journey into family convergence at death.
    Writing style was fresh, direct and simple - great new writer.

    Harding painted his mental pictures with words - "butterflies, flutter flames".
    I found nine new words, a big treat.

    Overall a stoic and trancending story of understanding.

    6 out of 7 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 6, 2010

    Distressed by Tinkers' depiction

    As a person who has had first hand experience dealing with a family member who had grand mal seizures, I am distressed at the descriptions in Tinkers of this type of epilepsy. I realize that in those days, the condition was deeply misunderstood. No one today would think of putting anything in the mouth of a person having a seizure - it is not good for the person having the seizure. Also no one would even consider an insane asylum as a solution. But I fear that most of the public remains ignorant about epilepsy. This book does nothing to help the reader understand except hopefully send the reader to resources to learn about the condition. I have contacted the Epilepsy Foundation of America and hope they will do more to educate the public.

    6 out of 23 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 29, 2011

    Not worth it

    The book seemed interesting, but i could not finish it. I struggled and forced myself to read page after page. I made it through about two thirds of the book, then decided to cut my losses and give up on the book!

    4 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 2, 2011

    Slightly Boring

    I decided to read this since it won awards, and yet I would have to say it almost bored me to tears. If you love poetry and very descriptive writing than this book is for you. Otherwise, this felt like the longest 100 page book I have ever read. Not that it was a bad story, but there was so much focus on the flow of words and not about the plot that I couldn't handle it. I hope this review helps you decide not to buy it if you are not into that style of writing!

    4 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 9, 2010

    I Also Recommend:

    Tinkers

    Tinkers was a mood in my subconscious that took me into the story and kept me there through the last page. It deals with a time when we were in more visceral contact with the Earth. Howard Cosby drives his wagon pulled by a mule through the woods to deliver necessities to geographically distant customers, who have simple needs. A box of soap powder costs pennies and when the makers change the box the customers are resistant to the slight modification. Items purchased regularly are needles and thread, tobacco, soap, tin buckets, and scissors. Howard Cosby is George Washington Cosby's father.

    The book opens with George Washington Cosby on his death bed. George is an antique clock repairman who as a child was bitten by his father Howard during one of Howard's grand mal seizures while trying to clamp his tongue with a spoon to prevent him from biting or swallowing it. George is now revisiting his life in earlier versions of himself through memory, hallucination, people, and objects including his clock collection and signed copy of the Scarlet Letter by Hawthorne left to him by Harold who received it from an ancient hermit who claimed Hawthorne gave it to him.

    Reaching farther back into the past and getting closer to Hawthorne's time, Howard's father had been a minister whose sermons became more and more incomprehensible as his congregation looked on. Another victim of illness, he starts loosing the ability to sustain his physical aspect and begins vanishing from the world. Howard speaks of his father's nebulous appearance in the following passage:

    Another time I found him fumbling for an apple in a barrel we kept in the basement. I could just make him out in the gloom. Each time he tried to grab a piece of fruit, it eluded him, or I might say he eluded it, as his grasp was no stronger than a draft of air threading through a crack in the window.

    The perceptions and deaths of these three men make up a perspective on the evolution of destiny that would not be in evidence in the singularity of one of their histories. It captures the compelling, often unsatisfying, cluttered with distractions, impermanence of life, and is aptly named tinkers as we all, to some extent tinker through life. I felt it in evidence as I tinkered through writing this review, as Hawthorne must have in writing the Scarlet Letter, and as Harold did in weaving weeds, sticks, and flowers on his rounds through the woods, and certainly George experienced it in repairing the intricate gears and miniscule workings of clocks.

    3 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted October 5, 2011

    A beautiful read!

    This book captured my interest right away. It is a beautifully written book that entangles the reader in the history it's characters all while showing the fragility of life during the end. I am proud to have this book, signed by the author, in my collection.

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 13, 2011

    Life affirming (but not in an Oprah kinda way)

    Perhaps I would not have been so wrapped up in the mood and the tone and the language of this book had my family not recently been through a similar experience. But the book has stayed in my mind for weeks, popping into my thoughts and capturing me all over again. No treacle. No happy ending. But there is beauty and ultimately peace to be found in the lives of these characters and the resolution of their shared story. I've belonged to two book clubs and I'd definitely make it my choice but I'm not sure everyone would love it as much as I did.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted September 13, 2010

    Wonderful Words Put to Great Use

    Tinkers is a writer's novel. Much like the precision of the watch and clock fixers it depicts, this novel is written with caring detail to words and sentences that work well to their beautiful conclusion. The lack of quotes makes us understand that life happens in a narrative of perceived reality and not in carefully orchestrated statements. Like the rivers, water flow, and natural continuation of life this novel introduces us to, this story goes from one generation to another as if time did not just happen chronologically but is instead layered upon each successive generation as a necessary mingling of each person's reality giving us the making of a family story, a human history.

    2 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 14, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    Amazing Book

    George Washington Crosby is dying. He has been brought home to die, and spends his last days in a hospital bed in his living room, surrounded by his family and friends. He rarely interacts with them; instead he spends his time in a nether state, where he roams through the memories and events that make up his life.

    In particular, George's story is that of men and their fathers. George's father, Howard, was a tinker; someone who drove from one isolated farm to another, selling the supplies that the farmers could not produce on their own. He was a gentle man and often taken advantage of by those around him. Howard's defining characteristic was that he was an epileptic. His seizures were severe and scared his children while disgusting his wife. When he discovers that his wife plans to have him committed to a mental hospital (this was in the 1870's), he leaves the family without a word and builds another life elsewhere.

    George has spent time rasing a family. After his children are grown and he is retired, he becomes a master clock repairer and seller. As he lies in his bed, his thoughts often drift to his clock business; the preciseness that is needed to repair them, and the knowledge that a clock in working order ticks off the seconds and minutes and hours of a life, giving the ability to lead a structured, regulated existence.

    Paul Harding won the 2010 Pulitzer Prize for fiction for Tinkers. It is an amazing feat, as this is his debut novel. The book demonstrates the human longing for connection, but also the fact that each of us leads a separate life and die alone, whether we are physically surrounded by others or segregated into an isolated place. This book is recommended for all readers.

    2 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 25, 2013

    Saved by reviews

    It would help if this book was described in blurb in one short paragraph age group and page count and saved from reading reviews and sample mom

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 23, 2013

    Boring reading

    After struggling reading through 46 pages of the 116 page book I threw in the towel and moved on to more pleasant reading in another book

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 20, 2012

    Quirky and good. Worth a read.

    While reading I got the feeling that Stienbeck was lurking. I enjoyed the father - son aspect, close to home for me. Good novel for discussions.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 261 Customer Reviews

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