3.0 262
by Paul Harding

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Pulitzer Prize Winner
New York Times Bestseller

"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." --National Public Radio

"In Paul Harding’s stunning first novel, we find what readers,…  See more details below


Pulitzer Prize Winner
New York Times Bestseller

"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." --National Public Radio

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

"Tinkers is truly remarkable." --MARILYNNE ROBINSON, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Home, Gilead, and Housekeeping

An old man lies dying. Propped up in his living room and surrounded by his children and grandchildren, George Washington Crosby drifts in and out of consciousness, back to the wonder and pain of his impoverished childhood in Maine. As the clock repairer's time winds down, his memories intertwine with those of his father, an epileptic, itinerant peddler and his grandfather, a Methodist preacher beset by madness. At once heartbreaking and life affirming, Tinkers is an elegiac meditation on love, loss, illness, faith, and the fierce beauty of nature.

Paul Harding is the author of two novels: the Pulitzer Prize-winning Tinkers and Enon (forthcoming in September 2013). He graduated from the University of Massachusetts and was a drummer for the band Cold Water Flat before earning his MFA from the Iowa Writers' Workshop. He has taught writing at Harvard and the University of Iowa. A Guggenheim Fellow, Harding now lives in Massachusetts with his wife and two sons.

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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.)

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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

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

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.

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Product Details

Bellevue Literary Press
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What People are saying about this

Barry Unsworth
"Tinkers is a remarkable piece of work, fascinating, and sometimes horrific, to read, and iscumulatively 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)
Marilynne Robinson
Tinkers is truly remarkable. 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 and Gilead)
Elizabeth McCracken
"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)

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Tinkers 3.1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 262 reviews.
marys44 More than 1 year ago
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.
Angela2932ND More than 1 year ago
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!
VetCorpsman More than 1 year ago
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.
TiBookChatter More than 1 year ago
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.
stampdaphant More than 1 year ago
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.
K-tee More than 1 year ago
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.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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!
baileyf12 More than 1 year ago
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!
nookbookerNY More than 1 year ago
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.
PaulaM More than 1 year ago
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.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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.
TLeopard More than 1 year ago
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.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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
BirdBirdBird More than 1 year ago
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.
Octospark More than 1 year ago
Beautifully written. The language is so wondrously conveyed. The story unfolds in a dreamy, end-of-life murmur and in a non-linear fashion, and it sometimes works but more often than not it loses its thread and gets a little boring. I loved all the magical and technical aspects of horology. Not sure I agree it deserved a Pulitzer, but nonetheless author Harding is a fantastic writer.
Jennifer Frost More than 1 year ago
A fine novel. Short and powerful and beautifully crafted. Full of evocative New England imagery and suffused with a palpable sense of time, this is a fantastic and inventive novel.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I liked the way Harding handled the characters over 3 generations. Great imagery and symbolism with clocks, relationships and life/death.
MWgal More than 1 year ago
I do not understand the poor reader reviews of this book. Don't you get it????? It is beautifully written and is a fascinating ten\minder that life is finite,.Harding's writing gently reminds us of this in a subtle way. Pay attention to his work.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I thoroughly enjoyed book was I got into it and realized what Tinkers were. Was difficult reading at times because of the switching back and forth of the main character
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Lovingly written. Words used in such descriptive ways as to ne new. It can be difficult to follow as it is written as a stream of consciousness rather than a novel. If it were not for its prose, I would have condemned it for jumping from first person to third. However, it works and is needed here. The book is not long (116 pages) but worth indulging.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Pirateliz More than 1 year ago
I like most books that are recommended on B & N, and especially Pulitzer Prize winning ones ! However, I can't recommend this one. Although beautifully descriptive, it is the most boring book I have ever read. I kept waiting for it to get good and it never did. I have a policy of not discarding a book I've started, especially one I paid for, and luckily this one was short.